1 kilogram boneless, skinless free- range or organic chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
4 tablespoons tikka masala paste*
2 long green chillis, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
small bunch coriander, finely chopped
handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
150 grams plain yoghurt
pinch saffron threads, toasted
2 tablespoons hot milk
1 teaspoon each cumin and coriander seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cups basmati rice, well washed and drained
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
knob of butter
4 onions, thinly sliced
½ cup cashew nuts
½ cup sultanas
Marinade: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir through the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Heat a large heavy-based saucepan with a little vegetable oil and cook the chicken gently for 10 minutes. If the pan is too hot the yoghurt will catch and burn. You may have to cook the chicken in batches. Put all the chicken and any juices back in the saucepan and season.
Rice: Soak the saffron in the milk. Put the cumin, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a piece of muslin and tie securely. Place in a large bowl with the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and rice. Pour over 4 cups of boiling water and leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain and discard the spice bag and cinnamon stick leaving the cardamom pods in the rice.
Spoon the rice over the chicken in an even layer and drizzle with the milk. Poke random holes through the rice and spoon a little saffron- infused milk into each one. Dot the butter over the rice and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a low heat for 25 minutes. A simmer mat is ideal for this type of cooking.
Topping: Heat the oil and butter and fry the onions until crisp and golden. This will take at least 30 minutes, turning frequently towards the end of cooking to get them crisp but not allowing them to burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Add the cashews and sultanas to the pan and sauté until golden. Add to the onions.
To serve: Spread the onion mixture over the rice and serve immediately.