Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of love and of loss - Chicken Tikka Masala


This has been an extraordinary week, and as I start writing this post it is only halfway through.
Extraordinary as in "out of the ordinary" not " unusually great".
F and I spent the first two days of it sitting sweat-drenched in stiff, ceremonial outfits in the midst of a heatwave.
On Monday we wore the colors of mourning to say goodbye to an old friend. Needless to say, his departure was unexpected, shocking, painful and happened much too soon.
It is very different when you bid your farewell to a person that has lived a long, rich life. It is still extremely sad, but you know it is their time, it is part of the circle of life.

When, on the other hand, you sit in a pew surrounded by all the people who were a part of your formative years and you see grown men (and women) cry their eyes out, something is very wrong. You almost hear an unfinished life coming to a screaching halt. There is just grief, no comprehension. You feel the weight of injustice on your shoulders; as the priest talks you remember facial expressions, words said, moments spent together that had gone lost somewhere in your subconscious. While you sit in that church it seems everyone is suddenly a good friend... no, your best friend. You are all connected on an intimate level, you share that pain. Everyone has an air of empathy and well meaning. You mentally promise each other you will never forget, you will share the precious memories, you will be better friends, companions, parents, children from now on. You hug, you exchange tissues and bare a part of your soul you usually never let anyone see. And even if you pretend not to notice them, you feel the cold fingers of fear creaping up around your hairline at the mere thought that it could have been you. For days after you spend large amounts of your time being incredibly aware of and thankful for the beauty that surrounds you.
So yes, that was Monday.

Raw from the experience of the previous day and a tad unwilling, on Tuesday we donned the colors of summer. I stepped into a flowy, light dress and F replaced his somber tie with a bright one. We didn't even turn on the radio on the drive up to the wedding, our hearts were so heavy. Then, as we neared the mountains and crossed the border into another country, our mood got lighter and we started feeling almost elated.

The sky was blue, the lake sparkled in the sun and the beauty of the landscape enchanted us. Once more we silently thanked someone/something for the breathtaking world we live in.
It did us good to see a new family being created after seeing a broken family the day before. It is good for the soul to counterbalance salty tears of grief with the sweeter ones of sentiment. It soothes to see love, to see different cultures, religions, races come together instead of clashing. It helps to be reminded by an exchange of rings, or an email (you know who you are, thank you), how much love there is in the world and how brief our journey through it is.


It was wonderful to dig our feet into the sand, to see the white of a wedding day spruced up by the bright, warm colors of Africa. Hips in vibrant prints jiggled to the beat of drums, we did the conga to '80s disco music and during the cutting of the cake, an ancient song bid peace to be upon us. Evenu shalom alejem.
I felt guilty on my way to the wedding, like I was not  mourning my friend appropriately. But now I know I did what he loved most: I celebrated the awesomeness that is life, in good and bad. I celebrated friendship, I drank champagne, I danced barefoot in the sand. And by doing this I celebrated his life too.

This one is for you, my friend.

Indian cooking is a bit like life: a mix of contrasting ingredients and flavors. Spicy, sour, sweet, cool earthy. It is all about balacing these flavors to reach the sublime.

I used to be really intimidated by the enormous list of ingredients most Indian recipes require, but the truth is that once you invest in the basic, pantry-friendly range of spices called for, many favorites are just at an arm's reach.

Recipe from Indiaphile


1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp paprika
2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
3 tsp garam masala
ginger garlic paste (made using 2 tsp each grated ginger and garlic)
600gr/1 1/4lbs chicken breast cut into cubes
2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, minced
1 400gr can diced tomatoes (or pelati, you will be blending them)
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp butter

Chicken marinade (at least 3 hours before meal)

In a large bowl, mix together 2 tbsp yogurt, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp garam masala and half of the ginger garlic paste. Add chicken pieces, coat well and refrigerate for a couple of hours.


Grease and heat a pan. Cook chicken on all sides until browned and set aside.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Cook onion until translucent, add the rest of the ginger garlic paste and cook until browned. Add remaining paprika and coriander and then the tomato sauce/puree, tomato paste and salt. Cook until the oil separates from the sauce. Remove from heat and blend to obtain a paste. Add water if needed.

Pour the puree back into the pan, heat and mix in the remaining yogurt until well blended. Add the chicken and reduce heat. Cover pan and let simmer until cooked through, up to 10 minutes.

Right before taking off heat, mix in the remaining garam masala, the coriander leaves (mine look funny because I used coriander I had previously chopped and frozen) and butter. Add salt if  needed.

I served the chicken tikka masala with plain white basmati rice and a yogurt, mint and cucumber salad.










  1. G'day and YUM, TRUE!
    I could go for some of this the recipe and your photo too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  2. your chicken T.M. recipe brought me to your site - and how glad I am to have found you, dear..... (sorry, can not find your name anywhere!)Like you, as a german now married to Jo from South India - but both our great love belongs to Italy!I was so moved by your stories about funeral and wedding in the space of only 2 days - I could not go on reading much more - will so do later! Ciao, Carina

    1. Hi Carina, nice to meet a kindred spirit! Your story sounds very interesting too.

  3. What a sweet testament to an old friend. I don't cook as much Indian food as I should - I love the flavours but find the spicing can sometimes be so complex. This looks relatively simple and utterly delicious so will definitely give it a try.

  4. I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend...

    Your dish looks wonderful though...

  5. I'm so sorry for your recent loss-unexpected loss is so difficult to fathom isn't it and you wrote so eloquently of the raw emotion and grief.

  6. There are many days in life one simply has to take each moment as it arrives: both the sad and the happy are part of it . . . I too buried a friend this week . . .one who had made bad life choices and lost out too early . . . that too made one think and reassess . . . and your recipe sounds delightful: am about to suss out my pantry . . .

    1. Sorry to hear about your friend. So true what you write...

  7. Thank you Magda, Little Loaf and Lorraine!

  8. So sorry to hear about your friend. An untimely death is always so hard to accept. All the best.

  9. I'm so sorry to hear about your week. That really has to be most unusual to be at a funeral one day and a wedding the next. Such extremes of emotions you must have been experiencing. It sounds like you handled everything very well. I'm sorry sorry you lost your friend. It sounds like his passing was most untimely. Lovely looking curry and yes, I now have a full collection of spices so I can cook Indian - it took a while for me to gather all these things you need for a good curry paste xx

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. This is a beautifully written post.

    This chicken looks incredible!


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