Chef Gilligan's chicken tikka masala

Curry is one of Ireland and Britain's favorite dishes, especially after a pint or six of beer, but new research suggests that it may be addictive.

Scientists at Nottingham Trent University claim that just thinking about eating a curry can make people feel high and eating it arouses the senses and makes your heart beat faster. Traditional British food like good old fish and chips doesn't have the same effect.

Also, a diet containing curry may help protect the aging brain, according a study of elderly Asians in which increased curry consumption was associated with better cognitive performance on standard tests.

Curcumin, found in the curry spice turmeric, possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

It's known that long-term users of anti-inflammatory drugs have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, although these agents can have harmful effects in the stomach, liver and kidney, limiting their use in the elderly.

So now that you know it makes you high just thinking about it and can keep your mind active, let’s make some.

TANDOORI CHICKEN

Ingredients

2 ½ lb chicken pieces (legs and/or breasts) skinned

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

For the marinade:

¾ pt plain yoghurt

½ onion, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1in piece fresh root ginger, chopped

1-2 hot green chilies, roughly sliced

2 tsp garam masala

Lime or lemon wedges, to serve

Method

Cut each chicken leg into two pieces and each breast into four pieces. Make two deep slits crossways on the meaty parts of each leg and breast piece. The slits should not start at an edge and should be deep enough to reach the bone. Spread the chicken pieces out on two large platters. Sprinkle one side with half the salt and half the lemon juice and rub them in. Turn the pieces over and repeat on the second side.

Set aside for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the marinade: combine the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, chilies and garam masala in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain the paste through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, pushing through as much liquid as you can.

Put the chicken and all its accumulated juices into the bowl with the marinade. Rub the marinade into the slits in the meat, then cover and refrigerate for 8-24 hours. Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature and set a shelf in the top third of the oven where it is hottest. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and spread them out in a single layer on a large, shallow, baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Lift the chicken pieces out of their juices and serve with lemon or lime wedges.

 

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients

5 tbsp olive or groundnut oil

5 cardamom pods

5 cm / 2 in piece of cinnamon stick

2 onions, finely chopped

2 tsp finely grated fresh root ginger

2 tsp garlic, crushed to a pulp

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground turmeric

½-1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)

1 tbsp bright-red paprika

1 large tomato, very finely chopped

1 tsp tomato purée

1 tsp garam masala

¼ pt water

1 quantity tandoori-style chicken

¼ tsp salt

Method

Put the oil into a large, wide pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When it is very hot, put in the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir once, and then add the onions. Stir until they begin to turn brown at the edges. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and paprika and stir for 30 seconds.

Add the tandoori-style chicken marinade, 1 tbsp at a time and stir it in so it is absorbed by the spices.

Add the tomato, tomato purée and garam masala and cook, stirring for a minute. Pour in the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste for salt, adding about ¾ tsp or as needed.

Add the cooked chicken and the juices from the baking tray. Raise the heat to high and fold the chicken into the sauce. The sauce should thicken and cling to the chicken pieces.