Chicken Tikka with Tarka Saag Daal

Succulent and spicy Indian Tandoori style Chicken Tikka with fragrantly spiced, buttery Tarka Saag Daal.

Here’s how to make authentic Indian Tandoori style Chicken Tikka with Tarka Saag Daal – also spelt Dal, Dhal or Dahl (lentils with spinach and a fragrantly spiced buttery sauce). The flavours are out of this world and the succulent, spicy chicken pieces are complemented brilliantly by the creamy and moorish daal.

There are 3 main cooking stages to this recipe – the Chicken Tikka, the Saag Daal and the Tarka.

Preparation time 30 mins. Chicken marination time minimum 30 mins but you can leave up to 24 hours in fridge if preferred. Cooking time 30 mins. This recipe serves 2.

Please don’t be alarmed by all the ingredients – they are basic Indian spices which are easily available in all supermarkets and most convenience stores. Plus, once you’ve got them they will last and make a great addition to many dishes. Here’s a handy way to store them all:

Indian Masala Dabba spice storage container
Indian Masala Dabba spice storage container



Chicken Tikka with Saag Daal – what you need:

For the Chicken Tikka:

Chicken Fillets x2 or approx 450g – skinless and cut into approx. 1 inch chunks.

Garam Masala spice – 1 heaped teaspoon.

Ground Cumin – 1 heaped teaspoon.

Coriander seeds – 1 heaped teaspoon freshly ground in pestle and mortar (or you can buy it already ground).

Paprika – 1 heaped teaspoon.

Chilli Powder – 1 heaped teaspoon (mild or hot, depending on your taste!)

Fresh Ginger – 1.5 inch piece, peeled and cut into smaller chunks.

Garlic cloves x2.

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon.

Fresh lemon x1 – one half squeezed and the other half for the garnish.

Fresh Coriander – a few stalks roughly chopped.

Plain yoghurt (Greek style) – 1 tablespoon (you can use low fat/fat free if preferred).

Salt – 1 level teaspoon.

Small blender.

Griddle pan.

For the Saag Daal:

Yellow Split Peas or Red Lentils – approx. 300g. Here I’m using red lentils.

Baby leaf Spinach – 200g or a large bag, finely chopped.

Turmeric – 1 level teaspoon.

Salt – 1 level teaspoon.

Plain yoghurt – 1 tablespoon.

Fresh Coriander – about a handful, roughly chopped.

Medium sized saucepan.

For the Tarka (the tarka is the spiced butter sauce you pour over the daal before serving):

Red Chilli – half, deseeded and chopped into small pieces/shreds (you can leave the seeds if you prefer it a little hotter!).

Fresh Ginger – 1 inch piece, cut into matchstick size strips.

Garlic cloves x2 – thinly sliced.

Garam Masala spice – 1 heaped teaspoon.

Ground Cumin – 1 heaped teaspoon.

Salted Butter – 75g.

Drizzle of olive oil.

Small frying pan.

Chicken Tikka with Tarka Saag Daal – what you need to do:

For the Chicken Tikka (ingredients as listed in the Chicken Tikka section above):

1. Put the following ingredients into a small blender; garam masala, cumin, ground coriander seeds, paprika, chilli powder, ginger, garlic, olive oli, lemon juice, salt. Blend into a thick paste consistency to create the marinade.

2. Add the paste and yogurt to the chicken pieces and mix together thoroughly in a dish/bowl. Leave to marinate for at least 30 mins (whilst you cook the daal) or up to 24 hours in the fridge.

For the Saag Daal (ingredients as listed in the Saag Daal section above):

1. Whilst the chicken is marinating, add the lentils, spinach, salt and turmeric to the saucepan and cover with boiling water. Stir and bring the saucepan to a simmer over a low/medium heat. The lentils will slowly absorb the water so make sure they don’t dry out and burn – keep topping up with a little more water to keep the consistency similar to a very thick soup. Cook for 30 mins or until the lentils have completely softened and season with more salt if necessary. Stir through the yoghurt and half the fresh chopped coriander at the end.

2. Whilst the daal is cooking, cook the chicken over a high heat on the griddle pan or under the grill for 8-10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes to enable to chicken to char but not burn. Remove from heat and rest to one side.

For the Tarka (ingredients as listed in the Tarka section above):

1. Whilst the daal is cooking and chicken resting, heat the frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Once the butter has melted and started to bubble, add the chilli, ginger, garlic, garam masala and cumin and fry gently for 5 minutes – be careful not to burn the butter (the oil should keep it safe).

2. Pour the tarka over the top of the daal in the saucepan. Using a large serving spoon, serve into bowls and garnish with chopped coriander and chilli. The buttery tarka will blend with the daal as you serve.

Finally serve the chicken onto the plates and garnish with chopped coriander, fresh chilli, a wedge of lemon and a blob of yoghurt on the side.

Enjoy this amazingly fragrant and delicious dish!

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Chicken Tikka with Tarka Saag Daal

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The Food Beaver.

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