I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, birds were chirping at my window and the sun was shining brightly. Being in love is such a feeling; a simple thought makes your heart sing. I always wanted to grow up and fall in love, just like my parents fell in love, and then got married in the Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak style in the 1980s. I always had a condition in my mind, the day I fall in love, I will be willing to share my tandoori chicken with him. You might say it was a childish, silly condition but it makes a lot of sense to me. Tandoori Chicken is the one dish in the world that I like the most and refuse to share. Call me greedy but I don’t even enjoy leaving out the bones for my dogs (who I love very much), simply because something about a perfectly cooked, juicy leg of tandoori chicken on my plate makes my heart skip a beat. So there it was, the simple condition, that when I fall in love, I will be willing to share my Tandoori Chicken with someone.
When I was sixteen years old, I fell madly in love with this Kashmiri boy who I thought looked very much like Aamir Khan. He was in my class, and one of my closest friends brother (Classic filmy Love situation). Each time he looked at me I blushed, I wrote a lot of love poems for him and spent two years obsessing about how great it would be when we got married, and the stories we would tell our grand children. I also thought it was perfect because my parents had met each other when they were that age. Alas! Cupid had his station elsewhere, and I was called by my school counselor and told to ‘Stay Away from That Boy, He is Trouble’ (all the more reason to find him attractive at that age). In the end, we attended that farewell party, school was over and the Tandoori Chicken on my plate kept waiting.
In the first year of college I was still feeling blue about my Kashmiri tragedy, so I was not on the hunt for Mr. College Cutie like everyone else. All the girls were crazy about this one boy, who was from Nainital (yes, Hill-boy again) he would play the guitar, was in a band and was a karate champ. He also had a great body, and the girls loved to watch him work out. I had heard of him in the background, but I didn’t really know him. Then one day my closest college friend dragged me to this rock concert, he was there too and he asked me out. I didn’t really know him well, but everyone thought that he was really cute and such a great guy, so I should go for it, so I did go for it. I didn’t end up sharing my Tandoori Chicken that year either, I guess we were both still growing up and searching for ourselves, and it was too soon to find each other.
Over the next two years, I dated a couple of people from college and outside. I also dated two of my good friends (never a good idea!). But in all this time, I never got to share my beloved meal with anyone. I spent a year in Nottingham, studying, cooking, that was a lonely patch for me at first, but also very beautiful because I found all the things that brought me happiness, I found myself. That year, for the first time, I enjoyed that Tandoori Chicken alone, not waiting and not searching for anybody to share it with.
I was happily in love with myself, living like I liked living, pampering myself and enjoying my food with my friends and family back in Mumbai. It was during my first project that I first met A. ‘A’ was nothing like any of other guys I had dated earlier, firstly, he wasn’t even a boy, I mean he was already a full-grown man when I met him. I could tell that he found me attractive (women can always tell) but I found that very strange because something about him made him look like he was in a committed relationship. Well, he wasn’t in one then but he is now. For the first time I had met a man that cared so much, to bring everything I loved to me. He brought me dark chocolates and lilies, held my hand and took me on long walks under starlight and brought everything that I loved a million steps closer to me. This is for him, because he was the one who encouraged me to start writing this blog and he is the one that orders that full plate of tandoori chicken, just for me, only to see me light up when I eat it. I found someone who has brought me immense happiness, and so many plates full of tandoori chicken that I can’t even count. I finally found someone to share this happiness with, to share my perfect tandoori chicken with. So here is a recipe I have specially devised to make the ultimate, perfect, succulent Tandoori Chicken at home, and it is dedicated to the love of my favorite dish and the man I share it with.
To Make the Tandoori Chicken you will have to start a day before, to enjoy it the next day.
You will need an Oven that goes up to 275 degree Celsius or prepare a water bath, or a double boiler.
For the best tasting Tandoori Chicken, I prefer using the leg meat, meaning the joint with the thigh and the drumstick.
Chicken 4 Leg pieces, cleaned
Brine, prepared by mixing 1 litre water with 3 tablespoons (45g) of Salt along with 1-tablespoon (15ml) vinegar.
Lemon juice 2-tablespoons (30ml)
Ginger, grated 1 tablespoon (15g)
Garlic, minced 2 tablespoons (30g)
Salt to taste (if the meat is not too salty with the brine already)
Mustard Oil, raw 2-tablespoon (30ml)
Hung Curd or thick Chakka, beaten 1 cup
Kashmiri Chilli Paste 1-tablespoon (reduce if your prefer less spice)
Chilli Powder a sprinkle, if required for colour
Ginger, fresh paste 2-tablespoon
Garlic, minced 2-tablespoon
Cloves, roasted & powdered 1 teaspoon
Coriander Seeds, roasted & powdered 2 teaspoon
Cinnamon, roasted & powdered 1 teaspoon
Cumin Seeds, roasted & powdered 2 teaspoons
Black Cardamom, roasted & powdered 1 teaspoon
Black Pepper, powdered ½ teaspoon
Turmeric, powdered ½ teaspoon
Garam Masala Powder 1 teaspoon
Add 1 teaspoon Green Chilli paste for extra zing
Foodmantra #Tip : When making the spice powders, using a mortar pestle to grind the spices and then sieving, brings out better flavour in the spices.
Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Chaat Masala (optional)
Prepare the brine solution and soak the chicken legs in brine for 5 hours in the refrigerator.
Wash off the brine completely. Make sure you wash it off completely, else the chicken might get too salty.
Use the sharp point of the knife and make slant incisions/ slits on the meat across the thigh and the drumstick.
Rub lemon juice, ginger and garlic along with a little salt (if required) on the chicken legs.
Let it stand for an hour and a half to 2 hours in refrigerator.
In a wide mouth bowl or a deep plate, mix mustard oil, hung curd, the red chilli paste, ginger garlic paste and the spice powders, and mix well. Rub this marinade on the chicken and massage it well into the slits on the thigh. Cover the chicken entirely with the marinade. The thick curds will cling on to the meat to soak in the flavour.
Cling wrap the bowl and refrigerate overnight or for 12 hours.
There are two ways of cooking the chicken. Without a Tandoor and in a homemade tandoor or barbeque set.
Without A Tandoor
Preheat the oven at 275 degree Celsius.
Take a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap a marinated leg of chicken in this sheet completely. Seal the wrap properly from all sides. Repeat this procedure with all the marinated chicken legs.
Keep these sealed wraps of chicken in the oven and cook them for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the legs. To check, prick the chicken next to the bone, if it is white and comes off easily, it is cooked.
IF you don’t want to use an oven, simple use a double boiler by place a fitted sieve over boiled water, then place the chicken on the sieve and seal the vessel with a lid on top, let the chicken cook in a steam chamber for succulent.
To Give it that Smoky Charcoal flavour
Preferably in a balcony or at a window.
Take a thick iron vessel, or use a tasla used by construction workers to carry cement, make sure the coal is dry, you can dry it completely in the oven. Spread out the coal and light it up with alcohol or kerosene, the kerosene will evaporate completely, so you don’t catch the flavour. Now hold the chicken with a skewer or a forcep over the coal, until the outside gets that smoky flavour.
To Give it The Boozy Charred Flavour
This is fairly simple.
After the chicken is cooked just pour a cap full of rum on the chicken, and light it up. This will give you a boozy charred flavour and that extra dramatic effect!
In a Home Tandoor/ Barbeque Set
If you do have a Barbeque set at home, and a nice outdoor space to enjoy the winter. You can create this homemade tandoor.
I saw this on one of my favourite Chefs episodes, he has placed brick to make a triangle closed chamber and surrounded it on all sides with coal. When this coal is lit and covered, the heat generated in this brick chamber is good enough to cook tandoori chicken the real way! In this set up it will take about ten minutes to make succulent tandoori chicken.
Serve it with onions slices, lemon and chaat masala on the side.
Foodmantra Tip: Don’t try to cook raw chicken on an open barbeque. It will take a long time to cook and the chicken will dry out in the meanwhile. It is better to pre-cook the chicken wrapped up in an oven or in a steam chamber before flashing it for a couple of minutes in the barbeque for the smoky flavour we love.
I hope you share this recipe and this tandoori chicken with those you love. It will make for some wonderful and romantic evenings..