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Tandoori Chicken - 1
Tandoori Murga - 1

Mamta Gupta

Tandoori chicken is probably one of the most popular non-vegetarian dishes on an Indian menu. The name ‘tandoori’ simply means cooked in a ‘tandoor’ or a very hot oven, traditionally made of clay, but modern tandoors are mostly electric. Most of us do not have a tandoor in our homes, a very hot oven works quite well instead.

In many restaurants, tandoori chicken is still made with ready-made tandoori mixes, with bright red colour. I prefer not to add any artificial colouring to mine. The marinade is very easy and quick to prepare using an electric blender. You can alter the spices to suit your own taste.

Any chicken pieces are fine for this recipe, but my choice is small drum sticks or small thigh pieces on bone. Bones keep the meet moist. In Indian cooking, skin is always removed from the chicken, before it is cooked, as I have done here. I mostly make my marinade with yoghurt and lemon, but you can use make it without yoghurt, adding extra lemon juice. Coconut milk instead works well too and gives it a different flavour and slightly sweet taste.

Same marinade can be used for lamb or mutton pieces (tandoori lamb) or indeed vegetables (see composite picture 3), especially if you happen to make a little more tandoori marinade than needed. Marinade vegetables like peppers, aubergines in it and cook in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so.

This marinated chicken is suitable for BBQ. Also see BBQ Selection and Marinade Selection. Serves 6.

Recipe edited July 2013

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Ingredients

1 kg. chicken pieces, I use drumsticks and small thigh pieces on bone
Marinade:
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch piece or 1 tbsp. grated ginger, peeled
2 tsp. cardamom seeds or powder*
4-5 cloves*
2 bay leaves*
1 1/2 tsp. ground black peppers*
1 tsp. cinnamon powder*
*These five whole spices can be substituted with 2 heaped tsp. of Garam Masala
Salt to taste
Flesh of 1 lime or lemon. Adjust amount to taste. I also add half of the chopped rind for extra flavour
3-6 green or red chillies, as per your taste, stalk removed
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves (optional)
A few strands of saffron (optional)
2-3 tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. paprika powder for colour (optional)
A small carton (150 ml.) of thick yoghurt (adjust amount to how strong your yoghurt is)** or coconut milk (you can omit yoghurt and coconut milk if you don't have them)
1 tsp. cumin seeds, raw or dry roasted
1 tbsp. plain flour to make a gravy to serve with the chicken***

Instructions

1.Remove skin from chicken. It is easy to pull off if you hold it with a ‘J cloth’ or similar.
2.Prick each chicken piece a few times with a fork. This helps to absorb flavours.
3.Place ginger, garlic, cardamoms*, cloves*, bay leaf*, cinnamon powder*, black pepper*, peeled lemon and half the rind, green chillies, coriander, saffron, cooking oil and salt in a blender and blitz for a few seconds, until it is a smooth paste.
4.Add yoghurt* or coconut milk and blitz again for a couple of seconds to mix everything well.
5.Taste and adjust salt and spices. Both should taste extra strong at this stage, as they will be added to 1 kilogram of chicken.
6.Add and mix cumin seeds to the marinade, if using.
7.Mix with chicken pieces, place in an airtight box and leave for a few hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge.
8.Heat oven to 250-300º C or 475º F (a tandoor is supposed to be very hot). My oven heats to 300 º C/572 º F and I use that.
9.Line a baking tray with aluminium foil (this saves washing up).
10.Place chicken pieces on the tray and bake in the centre of a hot oven, until nicely browned. Time varies for different ovens but it usually takes around 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven. You may need to turn the pieces over half way through cooking, but usually this is not necessary. You may need to drain off the excess liquid from the cooking tray halfway through, so that the cooked chicken is not soggy. Save the drained liquid to make gravy. See below ***. When ready, chicken pieces should look crispy and charred in places, as if you have cooked them on a BBQ. The meat should begin to ‘come off’ the bones.
11.***To make gravy, dissolve 1 tablespoon of flour in 2-3 tablespoons of water or cold milk, add it to the drained liquid and boil for a couple of minutes, until it thickens like custard. Serve alongside the chicken.
12.You can serve it as a starter or as part of a main meal, with other curries, dals Nan. Mint Sauce in Yoghurt goes well with it. You can also serve it with salad and vegetables, as a main meal.
13.You can use the same marinade for leg of lamb, just replace coriander leaves with mint leaves.

Notes

If skinless chicken is cooked on lower temperatures, it becomes tough.
This dish can also be cooked without an oven:
Heat ghee in a pan and brown the marinated chicken pieces on high heat.
Lower the heat, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked ( approx. 20-30 minutes)
Adjust salt and chillies.
Dry the gravy to a minimum on high heat.
Also see Tandoori Chicken 2, Tandoori Chicken 3, Tandoori Chicken 4, Tandoori Chicken 5.
**Tips for cooking with yoghurt:
Always use full fat yoghurt, if possible. Skimmed milk yoghurt sometimes curdles during cooking. If you wish to use low fat yoghurt, add 1 heaped teaspoon of plain or corn flour per cup of yoghurt.
Make sure that the dish you are cooking is at room temperature. If yoghurt is cooked straight from the fridge, it may curdle.
When adding yoghurt during cooking, take out a few tablespoons of the hot food in a bowl, mix yoghurt, warming it a bit and then stir it back into the hot dish.
Substitute sour cream for yoghurt, using only half the amount.

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