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Tandoori chicken cooked at home!

the king of kebabs – tandoori chicken!!

Here is my version of the ‘king of kebabs’, AKA tandoori chicken, which you can make at home even if you do not have a tandoor. Last year I wrote about my memory of this wonderful dish which reminds me so much of my father. If you’re keen for the story, click here. If you’re simply keen for the recipe, scroll down!

Ingredients:
1 kg whole chicken, with the skin on

whole chicken

Preparing the chicken for the first marinade:

  1. Skin the chicken & remove any excess fat & sinew. Also, remove the parson’s nose.

skin chicken & remove excess fat & trim

2. Remove the ends of the winglets on each side.

remove the ends of winglets on either side

3. Trim the ends of the drumsticks.

trim the ends of the drumsticks

4. Make a tiny slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully.

gently make a slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully

5. Make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways.

make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways

6. Make three slits on each thigh, as well.

do the same lengthways slit on each thigh, as well

each chicken leg should look like this

7. Make two slits along each breast, lengthways.

make two slits lengthwise along each breast

8. The chicken is now ready for the first marinade.

the prepared chicken should look like this!!

Ingredients

First Marinade

1. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
2. 1 teaspoon cooking salt
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons kashmiri chilli, ground

ingredients for first marinade: white vinegar, kashmiri chilli [ground] & salt

Tandoori masala/second marinade

1.1 1/2 cup thick yoghurt
2. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
3. 1 tablespoon ground garlic
4. 2 tablespoons ground kashmiri chillies, soaked in oil
5. 2 teaspoons kebab garam masala
6. salt, to taste

kashmiri chillies soaked in oil & kashmiri chillies ground to a fine paste

ingredients for second marinade/tandoori masala:
top row, left to right: yoghurt, crushed ginger & crushed garlic
bottom row, nilgiri’s garam masala, ground kashmiri chillies & salt

Method:
1. Skin the chicken, remove any excess fat but leave some as it helps keep the bird moist. Prepare the chicken for the first marinade.

chicken ready for the First Marinade

2. Prepare the chicken for the second marinade/tandoori masala by applying the white vinegar, salt and the chilli.

marinate the chicken with vinegar, making sure you rub gently into all the slits

add the salt & rub in

add the chilli powder & massage gently into the breast

do the same with the legs

3. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

the chicken should look like this after the first marinade

cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes

4. Prepare the second marinade by blending the yoghurt with the crushed ginger, crushed garlic, ground chillies with oil, garam masala, salt together to form a ‘tandoori masala’.

start with yoghurt for the second marinade

add crushed ginger

add crushed garlic

mix well

add salt

add ground kashmiri chillies in oil

mix well & check for seasoning

add nilgiri’s garam masala & fold

the Second Marinade/Tandoori Masala is ready

5. Remove the chicken from the fridge and apply the Tandoori Masala onto the marinated chicken.

apply the tandoori masala on the marinated chicken

apply the marinade all over the chicken, massaging gently in every slit & cavity

another angle of the marinated chicken

6. Cover and place the marinated chicken in the fridge for about an hour.

marinated chicken, ready to go!!

cover & refrigerate for about an hour

7. Remove the chicken from the fridge, place a skewer through the chicken. place the chicken in an earthenware, or clay, pot and place this in a pre-heated oven, temp. 160C.

run a skewer through the chicken & place on an earthenware pot or roasting tray with your choice of spices to give a ‘smoked’ flavour!

9. Cook in the oven for about 45 mins, or till the meat is cooked.

place the chicken in a pre-heated oven at 160 C

chicken cooking in the oven after 10-15 minutes

chicken after 25 minutes

10. To caramelise the chicken, turn on the grill in the oven. Cook for about 5 mins, or till the meat is golden.

chicken almost cooked, after 45 minutes, it is now ready for the grill

chicken after being grilled

tandoori chicken, hot from the oven

11. Serve the ‘king of kebabs’ with a mint and coriander chatni, sliced onions and a lemon wedge.

tandoori chicken, with onion rings, lemon wedge & mint & coriander chatni

Accompaniments:

Mint and Coriander Chatni
Ingredients:
1. 1 bunch fresh mint, roots removed and some of the thick stems taken off, washed
2. 1 big bunch fresh coriander, roots taken off, stem removed, washed
3. 4-5 small green chillies
4. 1 tablespoon pomegranate extract
5. salt, to taste
6. 1 red onion
7. lemon wedge

chatni ingredients: fresh mint, fresh coriander, pomegranate extract, lemon wedge, fresh green chillies & one red onion

Method:

1. Grind all the ingredients, except for the red onion and lemon wedge, to a fine paste. Add salt, as required.

grind all the chatni ingredients (apart from the red onion and lemon wedge)  to a fine paste. add salt

2. Refrigerate and serve with the hot chicken alongside the sliced red onion and lemon wedge.

mint chatni, ready for the chicken, refrigerate until required

the perfect accompaniment to the “king of kebabs”!!

A few things to remember:

1. Buy the chicken with the skin on as this keeps the meat moist, even if you are not marinating it the same day.

2. Remember to prepare the chicken for the second marinade by applying the first marinade. Do not add the first marinade to the second and apply it on to the bird altogether. This won’t save you time, also, the marinade will not stick to the chicken.

3. To get the red colour, soak the chillies in lukewarm water till they swell (balloon), then squeeze the chillies and crush in a food processor with some vegetable oil.

4. Cook the chicken at a temperature of 160- 170 C as this keeps the meat moist and allows the chicken to cook from the ‘inside – out’.

5. To caramelise the chicken, flash under a hot grill or do as I do here!

6. Add your choice of whole spices to the earthenware pot before placing the chicken in it. As the oven heats up, so do the spices and the smoked flavour permeates into the meat.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

Dum ka murgh

how can you not smile when you are about to eat dum ka murgh?

I want to share this recipe as it is my favourite chicken dish that uses a technique which the French call confit and we Indians call dum [dum derives from the Persian word ‘dum baksh‘  meaning ‘to give breath to’ or cooked in its own juices without the addition of any water].

Interestingly, this dish also has some Persian influences. It uses ground sesame seeds, a.k.a. tahini, as a binding agent to hold the yoghurt together, preventing it from splitting.

The original recipe uses ground peanuts, which are grown around that region, but I use ground cashew nuts for the simple reason that cashew nuts are more acceptable than peanuts, a.k.a groundnuts, and many people who cannot tolerate peanuts can eat the cashew nut which, as we all know, isn’t a ‘nut’ as such.

Before you begin, for all the ingredients that you need for a garam masala that goes with poultry, click here.

garam masala for poultry

Step 1

ingredients – from top, clockwise: salt, oil, 1 kg chicken on the bone cut into small pieces, lemon juice, chopped mint, finely sliced white onions. in the tray, clockwise: garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste, sesame paste, ground cashews, turmeric, poultry garam masala, 2½ cups yoghurt

Step 2

place garam masala in spice grinder: add cinnamon sticks first (break sticks in half, if necessary)

Step 3

grind spices until they resemble coarse sand

Step 4

Add ½ cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil to shallow frying pan

Step 5

your onions should be sliced evenly lengthways (i.e. from top to bottom, as you would cut an apple)

(See how to slice onions perfectly here.)

Step 6

place onions in mixing bowl

Step 7

add ½ teaspoon salt (adding salt to the onions at this stage makes them caramelise better)

Step 8

mix salt with onions

Step 9

when oil is hot, add onions to frying pan

Step 10

fold onions into the oil so that they are thoroughly coated, reduce heat to medium

Step 11

fold onions regularly

Step 12

leave the onions to cook, they will turn golden slowly [about 3–5 minutes

Step 13

the onions start turning golden, keep an eye on them and keep folding so they don’t burn! [about 7–11 minutes

Step 14

the onions are now caramelising, this happens very quickly

Step 15

the onions are now perfectly caramelised and the oil starts to separate

Step 16

gather caramelised onions away from the oil with a spoon

Step 17

holding caramelised onions with spoon, drain oil

Step 18

set aside caramelised onions

To watch my short video on caramelising onions, click here

Step 19

Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste to mixing bowl

Step 20

Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste to mixing bowl

Step 21

Add 1½ tablespoons green chilli paste to mixing bowl

Step 22

fold mixture

Step 23

Add 1 tablespoon sesame paste (tahini)

Step 24

fold mixture

Step 25

add 1½ tablespoons ground cashews and fold

Step 26

add 1 teaspoon turmeric and fold

Step 27

add 2 tablespoons poultry garam masala and fold

Step 28

fold so that it looks like this!

Step 29

add 1½ tablespoons salt

Step 30

add yoghurt (full-fat yoghurt, please, just the way the cow made it!)

Step 31

fold the yoghurt to form a marinade

Step 32

keep folding until mixture is smooth

Step 33

add caramelised onions

Step 34

fold the onions to look like this!

Step 36

add the chicken pieces to the marinade or ‘masala’!

Step 37

lightly massage the marinade onto the chicken

Step 38

….keep marinating until your chicken looks like this!

Step 39

transfer chicken to cold saucepan making sure chicken mixture will only take up a third of the saucepan’s depth. The remaining ⅔ of the saucepan is needed to circulate steam

Step 40

Select a shallow frying pan that is large enough for the chicken saucepan to sit in it and place on stove. Heat empty frying pan on high heat

Step 41

To determine when frying pan is hot enough, drop some tepid water into frying pan – the water should immediately bead and scatter

Step 42

Place chicken saucepan onto hot frying pan (n.b. the frying pan should have no oil, or water, in it)

Step 43

Place mixing bowl on saucepan like a ‘lid’. Keep the heat to medium!

Step 44

Add ½ cup water to mixing bowl ‘lid’. As the frying pan under chicken saucepan transfers heat to the chicken, the heat will also be transferred to the mixing bowl so the water in the mixing bowl will heat up (this is important to create ‘indirect’ heat for the chicken to cook)

Step 45

The water in the bottom of the mixing bowl

Step 46

The water in the mixing bowl will turn to steam and disappear, in about 50 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes, at least!! Remember, this is no “curry in a hurry”!!

Step 47

When the water from the mixing bowl has completely evaporated, your chicken will be perfectly cooked – remove bowl and voilà!

Step 48

Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ cup chopped mint

Step 49

Place a banana leaf on a plate (if you want!) and serve the chicken on top

Step 50

dum ka murgh

Cooking chicken, or any other poultry, this way has a number of  benefits:

1. The meat is tender and juicy.
2. As there is no water in the dish, it is loaded with flavour.
3. The dish tastes better the next day because it is cooked well, and slowly, in its own juices.

Happy cooking!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

Murgh kali mirch ……

murgh kali mirch served alongside steamed basmati rice

Happy New Year to you all, folks!

As my first blog for 2013 I want to share this recipe that, to this day, remains one of the most amazing dishes I have learnt to cook.

It is simple yet very technical as it uses black peppercorns, the king of spices, in three different ways.

First, the peppercorns are used whole to create an infusion in the hot oil; secondly, they are crushed or cracked; and thirdly, they’re ground with garlic and curry leaves to add that extra ‘oomph’ to the dish!!

the ingredients arranged before I cook

adding buttermilk to the chicken

mixing the buttermilk and chicken

adding oil or butter

adding peppercorns to the hot oil

adding cassia

adding the cardamon

adding cloves

adding asafoetida

adding onions and curry leaf to the oil

folding the spices and onions

the leaves will become translucent and the onions start to caramelize

add salt to taste and cook till onions are translucent

keep stirring whilst holding the pot firmly

add ground ginger and garlic one after the other, when the onions are golden

add the chilli powder

add turmeric powder

stir ingredients each time after adding a new one

add ground coriander

add chopped tomatoes

stir in the tomato

let the tomato cook till skin is soft

add marinaded chicken

fold in chicken

cook chicken

crush curry leaves and add to pot

add ground pepper

add a generous sprinkling of cracked pepper

cover the pot and simmer till chicken is cooked

add peppercorns to a mortar

add garlic flakes to mortar

crush leaves and add to mortar

add coriander leaves

crush ingredients with pestle working under a clean tea towel to prevent any mess, and smile please!!

add the crushed spices to the pot

sprinkle chopped coriander on top before serving

close up of dish

the dish is now ready!

plate the meal on a banana leaf and served with steamed rice

If you want quantities, here is the murgh kali mirch recipe.

And if you want the classic way to cook basmati rice, please watch this video!

Please let me know how you go with this dish.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

Mysore Chilli Chicken ….

This chilli chicken dish is simple yet skilled; it is hot but doesn’t burn, and it is tasty but not overly spiced. So much intricacy in this dish!

Mysore chilli chicken dish

So, let’s get started and first make the masala:

Masala (marinade):

9 long dried red chilies (you can use either the Bedgi chilli from Mangalore or its similar Kashmiri chilli. If you use Kashmir add 1.5 tsp hot chilli powder)

8- 10 Tellicherry peppercorns

1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

6 cloves

I medium-sized cassia bark

2 1/2-inch pieces of ginger

ingredients for the marinade (clockwise from left to right):
top row, from left to right: whole black peppercorns, turmeric & cloves
middle row, from left to right: red chilli powder, water, salt & whole dried red chillies
bottom row, from left to right: cassia, coriander seeds & fresh ginger

1 kg chicken on the bone

chicken on the bone & half of the ground marinade

For the sauce aka ‘kari’

2 1/2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

2 1/2 large onions, finely chopped

10 fresh curry leaves

Salt, to taste

2 medium-size tomatoes, chopped

2 tsp of lemon juice, to serve

‘kari’ ingredients, clockwise from left to right: vegetable oil, fresh curry leaves, chopped onions, remaining ground marinade & chopped tomatoes

Method:

1. Wash and cut the chicken into small pieces, drain till dry.

2. Grind all the masala ingredients to a fine paste, adding a little warm water.

all the marinade ingredients before being ground

ground marinade

3. Keep half the marinade (masala) aside for the sauce.

4. Marinate the chicken pieces in the remaining masala and set aside for 4 hours in the refrigerator.

marinating the chicken

marinated chicken

5. In a large frying pan, heat the ghee/oil and fry the onions with the curry leaves and salt. Cook until the onions are light golden brown. Add the masala to the onions and cook until the oil leaves the sides of the pan.

heat oil in a pan

add onions and fresh curry leaves, followed by salt

cook till it starts to turn light golden brown

add the remaining marinade

fold & cook till the oil leaves the sides of the pan

6. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, or till the tomatoes are cooked.

add the tomatoes & cook

7. Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge, place in a saucepan, cover and cook in its own juices until cooked (this is similar to ‘braising’) Set aside to rest.

place the marinated chicken in a saucepan

cover & cook over low heat

different stages of chicken cooking – just starting to change colour

stir occasionally for even cooking & cook till the chicken is fully cooked

8. Drain the chicken juices (‘liquor’) into the sauce and add a cup of water, if required. Cook till oil leaves the pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

drain the pot liquor into the sauce/’kari’

add some lemon juice

sauce/’kari’, ready to go!!

9. In another frying pan, heat enough oil to fry the cooked chicken pieces till caramelised and ‘bright red’! Drain and set aside.

heat oil in a separate pan

fry the chicken in hot oil, a few pieces at a time

fry the chicken till carmelised & ‘bright red’

drain on a paper towel

top with crisp-fried curry leaves

Serve the Mysore chilli chicken along with the kari on top of steamed Basmati rice, with some crisp fried curry leaves (you’ll see “how to temper kari leaves” on the link!).  (To make great steamed rice, click the link.)

serve on top of hot basmati rice, with ‘kari’ on top & a few drops of lemon juice

voilà, Mysore chilli chicken, ready to go!!

And before I sign off, here are a few tips to remember when cooking this dish:

1. To get a bright color from the chillies (if Bediga or Kashmiri chillies are not available), soak them in warm water, do not split them. This allows the chilli to soak in the moisture and concentrates the colors. Discard the water and grind.

2. Tellicherry pepper is the best in the world and has a very strong aroma!

3. Braising the chicken and letting it rest in the juices lets the meat to tenderise , then when you fry it, the outside is crisp and the inside is still moist. The Chinese call it ‘twice cooked’.

4. Once the chicken is fried it may be added to the sauce, or alternately served separately (as I did) on top of the rice along with the kari.

Well, as for me, I would like to have the lot with no rice and no kari, just a glass (or two) of my favourite Mornington Peninsula Nazaaray Shiraz!!! You can have the rice and. . .

Anah Daata Suki Bhava!!

The king of kebabs . . . perfect for a father’s day lunch or dinner!!

When my son, Aniruddh, asked me, “Hey dad, if you were to describe a perfect father’s day – what would it be?”

No sooner had he finished asking me than I immediately replied, “Son, it has to be a day I still remember to this day like it was yesterday.”

Well, the year was 1969, and the place was Hyderabad.

I had spent a full day with my dad [I called him ‘Papa’], watching a game of test match cricket in Hyderabad. It was India versus New Zealand. Day 1. And what an amazing and unforgettable day it was!!

We watched Papa’s favourite players in action.

We saw Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi Jnr, the youngest player ever to captain a national team in the world, take on the Kiwis who were led by the well-respected Graham Dowling.

The Indian team also had Ajit Wadekar, Bishen Bedi, Venkataraghavan and Prassanna.

On the Kiwi side there was Turner, Bevan Congdon, Dayle Hadlee and . . . well, the list goes on!

It was also my first experience of watching a test match ‘live’, as it were. It wasn’t on the television but in the stadium, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium we called it “Fateh Maidan”.

At the Fateh Maidan my dad and I were sitting in the stand next to the members’ section. “Son,” I grin at my son at the memory, “it was the most exciting day of my life!!”

Mum had packed lunch for us, and it included aloo paratha with home-made mango pickle served in two boxes: one for me and one for my dad.

We reached the stadium at around 8 a.m. just as it was being announced on the radio that all roads leading to the stadium would be closed after 9 a.m. which meant that if we’d been late my dad would have had to park  his Lambretta scooter a long way from the stadium.

But we arrived well in time, we weren’t going to be late for this game, no way!!

Anyway, the day finished with NZ making a smallish total, I don’t remember the exact score but the Indian spinners did what was expected of them. It was a great day’s play.

But there was more to come.

my Papa with my Bachcha in April 2003

On our way home, Papa took me to a small restaurant called a dhaba which I was told later was the name for a roadside eatery.

At this eatery we ordered two “full tandoori chickens” as a ‘parcel’ which is a term used to this day in India for a ‘take home’, ‘take-away’, or whatever you want to call it!

All this wonderful smelling food for just the four of us, sorry, the three of us as my mom’s a vegetarian.

Papa bought mirchi pakoda (batter fried stuffed banana chillies) for my mum.

the king of kebabs – tandoori chicken!!

“Son,” I said remembering the feeling as a young boy, “Can you imagine carrying all this food in your hand, riding pillion on a scooter?”

I smiled at the recollection as I remembered my sensory system was about to explode with the wonderful smell the parcel was giving!!

Well, we reached home after what seemed like forever to get to.

We ran inside. My Papa had his ubiquitous gin and tonic and we all (that’s my sister, my mother and I) sat around a small dining table savouring the. . .[cue music] “And and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. . .”]

“So bachche (son),” I say, returning to the present, “that to me is a perfect father’s day!”

And my son replies with candour, “No issues with that dad. I am sure we can do all of those things, can’t we? We can watch India take on NZ at the cricket in India, on TV. You can have your Shiraz and call it a ‘gin and tonic’, and we can certainly make the mirchi pakoda for mum .” And he pauses and then adds, “And I am pretty sure we can also make the tandoori chicken. Happy?”

I am.

So friends, for a perfect father’s day, I suggest you watch the cricket, have a gin and tonic (with extra ice and an extra splash of lime juice) and have, well, I’m sorry about this part as you’re going to have to make your own king of kebabs: tandoori chicken!!

So, to help you do this, here is my version of the king of kebabs, and yes, you certainly can make it at home even if you do not have a tandoor, just don’t call it ‘tandoori chicken’.

You can, however, certainly call it the king of kebabs!!

So, without further ado, it’s now time to cook the KING OF KEBABS for the King of the house!

Ingredients:
1 kg whole chicken, with the skin on

whole chicken

Preparing the chicken for the first marinade:

  1. Skin the chicken & remove any excess fat & sinew. Also, remove the parson’s nose.

skin chicken & remove excess fat & trim

2. Remove the ends of the winglets on each side.

remove the ends of winglets on either side

3. Trim the ends of the drumsticks.

trim the ends of the drumsticks

4. Make a tiny slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully.

gently make a slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully

5. Make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways.

make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways

6. Make three slits on each thigh, as well.

do the same lengthways slit on each thigh, as well

each chicken leg should look like this

7. Make two slits along each breast, lengthways.

make two slits lengthwise along each breast

8. The chicken is now ready for the first marinade.

the prepared chicken should look like this!!

Ingredients

First Marinade

1. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
2. 1 teaspoon cooking salt
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons kashmiri chilli, ground

ingredients for first marinade: white vinegar, kashmiri chilli [ground] & salt

Tandoori masala/second marinade

1.1 1/2 cup thick yoghurt
2. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
3. 1 tablespoon ground garlic
4. 2 tablespoons ground kashmiri chillies, soaked in oil
5. Kebab garam masala , 2 teaspoon
6. salt, to taste

kashmiri chillies soaked in oil & kashmiri chillies ground to a fine paste

ingredients for second marinade/tandoori masala:
top row, left to right: yoghurt, crushed ginger & crushed garlic
bottom row, nilgiri’s garam masala, ground kashmiri chillies & salt

Method:
1. Skin the chicken, remove any excess fat but leave some as it helps keep the bird moist. Prepare the chicken for the first marinade.

chicken ready for the First Marinade

2. Prepare the chicken for the second marinade/tandoori masala by applying the white vinegar, salt and the chilli.

marinate the chicken with vinegar, making sure you rub gently into all the slits

add the salt & rub in

add the chilli powder & massage gently into the breast

do the same with the legs

3. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

the chicken should look like this after the first marinade

cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes

4. Prepare the second marinade by blending the yoghurt with the crushed ginger, crushed garlic, ground chillies with oil, garam masala, salt together to form a ‘tandoori masala’.

start with yoghurt for the second marinade

add crushed ginger

add crushed garlic

mix well

add salt

add ground kashmiri chillies in oil

mix well & check for seasoning

add nilgiri’s garam masala & fold

the Second Marinade/Tandoori Masala is ready

5. Remove the chicken from the fridge and apply the Tandoori Masala onto the marinated chicken.

apply the tandoori masala on the marinated chicken

apply the marinade all over the chicken, massaging gently in every slit & cavity

another angle of the marinated chicken

6. Cover and place the marinated chicken in the fridge for about an hour.

marinated chicken, ready to go!!

cover & refrigerate for about an hour

7. Remove the chicken from the fridge, place a skewer through the chicken. place the chicken in an earthenware, or clay, pot and place this in a pre-heated oven, temp. 160C.

run a skewer through the chicken & place on an earthenware pot or roasting tray with your choice of spices to give a ‘smoked’ flavour!

9. Cook in the oven for about 45 mins, or till the meat is cooked.

place the chicken in a pre-heated oven at 160 C

chicken cooking in the oven after 10-15 minutes

chicken after 25 minutes

10. To caramelise the chicken, turn on the grill in the oven. Cook for about 5 mins, or till the meat is golden.

chicken almost cooked, after 45 minutes, it is now ready for the grill

chicken after being grilled

tandoori chicken, hot from the oven

11. Serve the ‘king of kebabs’ with a mint and coriander chatni, sliced onions and a lemon wedge.

tandoori chicken, with onion rings, lemon wedge & mint & coriander chatni

Accompaniments:

Mint and Coriander Chatni
Ingredients:
1. 1 bunch fresh mint, roots removed and some of the thick stems taken off, washed
2. 1 big bunch fresh coriander, roots taken off, stem removed, washed
3. 4-5 small green chillies
4. 1 tablespoon pomegranate extract
5. salt, to taste
6. 1 red onion
7. lemon wedge

chatni ingredients: fresh mint, fresh coriander, pomegranate extract, lemon wedge, fresh green chillies & one red onion

Method:

1. Grind all the ingredients, except for the red onion and lemon wedge, to a fine paste. Add salt, as required.

grind all the chatni ingredients (apart from the red onion and lemon wedge)  to a fine paste. add salt

2. Refrigerate and serve with the hot chicken alongside the sliced red onion and lemon wedge.

mint chatni, ready for the chicken, refrigerate until required

the perfect accompaniment to the “king of kebabs”!!

A few things to remember:

1. Buy the chicken with the skin on as this keeps the meat moist, even if you are not marinating it the same day.

2. Remember to prepare the chicken for the second marinade by applying the first marinade. Do not add the first marinade to the second and apply it on to the bird altogether. This won’t save you time, also, the marinade will not stick to the chicken.

3. To get the red colour, soak the chillies in lukewarm water till they swell (balloon), then squeeze the chillies and crush in a food processor with some vegetable oil.

4. Cook the chicken at a temperature of 160- 170 C as this keeps the meat moist and allows the chicken to cook from the ‘inside – out’.

5. To caramelise the chicken, flash under a hot grill or do as I do here!

6. add your choice of whole spices to the earthenware pot before placing the chicken in it. as the oven heats up, so do the spices and the smoked flavour permeates into the meat.

“Well, it looks like it’s all ready,” says my son. “All you now need is a good Shiraz from the Iron Gate in the Hunter’, right Dad?”

“Yup, son.’ I reply yet add, “But there is only one thing missing. Where is my Papa?”

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

Anna’s Mysore Chilli Chicken

Well, the name says it all.

But it might not be the name you expect.

Anyway, this is a chicken dish with, yes, you guessed it, chilli and it comes from the “royal” (well, I added the regal bit to it!!) kitchens of Mysore.

Anna’s Mysore chilli chicken

But what is not evident from the name, ‘Mysore chilli chicken’, is the process of creating this dish.

It is simple yet very skilled; it is hot but doesn’t burn, and it is tasty but not overly spiced.

This dish is ‘Carnatic’ music at its best, that is, to the taste buds!!

The dish is a creation of Vardarajan, who out of respect (or fear!!) was called “Anna” which means “big brother”. See, some of you won’t have expected that name to belong to a bloke!

Anna was a chef at the Chola Hotel in Madras, way back in the 70s and 80s, and what a chef he was.

But don’t let me do all the talking, folks.

I have pulled out a page from the ‘diary’ of Raman Natrajan who was a trainee in that hotel around the same time as Anna and he describes brilliantly what it was like working in the kitchens of the Chola Hotel and then he describes the dish itself!!

So, without further ado, let’s see what he wrote:

My first job in a professional kitchen was at The Chola Sheraton in Madras. I took a part-time job to work on the weekends. On my first day Chef Ramesh Babu walked me over to the Main Kitchen. I was to work in the prep kitchen next to the Indian kitchen. This was where you served your indenture in order to become an apprentice worthy of working in the main kitchen.

There was a never-ending procession of goods requisitioned out on numerous trolleys from the main storeroom that came into the prep kitchen first, for initial processing. For 12 hours a day, I stood there with my hands red and sore, peeling onions by the bagful and slicing them. My feet and back ached constantly and I was unable to answer back to any one who wanted to test my patience during those first few days. After two weeks I was moved to the Indian Kitchen.

In this small world of the Indian section, there was a smaller god, Chef Varadarajan, who by now must be in the great white kitchen in the sky. Everyone called him Anna (brother). Anna was a ‘Tamizhkaaran’ from Mysore (which means a Tamil from Mysore). He had about ten cooks and five apprentices and yes, I was again at the mercy of the whole team. It was here that I watched in wonder as Anna prepared a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, all day long, for the restaurant and banquets.

No one told you, showed you, or gave you handouts; you learnt by sight, taste, and smell to become proficient by doing a task over and over again and getting better and faster every time. We had thousands of marinated tandoori chicken pieces to put on seekhs (skewers). After this we stood in front of four hot tandoori ovens, soaked in sweat and we handed over these seekhs to the tandoori cooks who were experts on the tandoor. This was my first experience of real heat. I was aware that in 99 percent of the iterations of tandoori chickens out there, the light or dark red color was supplied by food dye. I was curious and asked Anna if he used food color in all the food that has some color added to it. Anna told me that he was going to show me something later.

In the Indian kitchen they made different gravies in large pots big enough to have a bath in!  Still, as far as I was concerned, I was now being treated like a human being, at last, largely thanks to Anna who took me under his wing. When you work in the hotel you go to the staff kitchen for a meal, for you would not dare eat in the kitchen, at least not while the chef or sous-chefs were around. But most afternoons, after the meal service was done at around 2 p.m., the executive chef and his sous-chef would take a break. This is when the senior cooks make a special lunch for themselves. These were gems that one cannot find on any menu. The dishes were made with pure love and every day each chef outdid the other with his special dish.

One day Anna made a dish for the afternoon meal from his native Mysore. This was the day that Anna had said he’d show me something. And he did as promised; he showed me how to make a spectacular dish which he called “Mysore chilli chicken”. And what was even more amazing is that he was going to make it without adding any food color. Till today, I have searched online for this recipe and I have never found one that looked anything like his. It was bright orange/red and tasted divine. It came served with steamed rice. It was spicy, it was hot and it was pure Carnatic music on a plate!!

I will never forget Anna who showed me his mastery of cooking.

Food is like music. It should be relaxing, refreshing, and nourishing. Just like the music you love, it should inspire and move, exhilarate and excite. Flavors, colors, and smells should intermingle on your palate and raise the senses. For Anna the master, everything was easy, he was a smooth conductor and I learnt from him that cooking is like playing an instrument. It requires practice and respect; patience and a willingness to learn. You make mistakes, you try again, and you master your performance.

Thank you Anna for being one of my early Aachiriyars!!
VANAIKKAM ANNA!!!

Well folks, there you have it. Men after my own heart. Food cooked with skill, endless practise and passion.

So, what do we know about our friend Raman Natrajan?

 Raman Natrajan

Well, he started his career in Madras in the early 80s at the Chola Sheraton. I guess I was somewhere there around that time and that is how we met.

Time went by, as it tends to do . . . Raman joined the ITDC, I joined the Taj group of hotels.

Raman went to America to further his career in the hotel industry and I moved ‘Down Under’ to become a DESI cook. . .!

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Raman went on to work for the Sheraton Hotel as their Executive Chef in New Orleans, followed by a stint at the Renaissance Stanford in San Francisco, until 2004.

Today he heads the hotel operations of the Marriott Hotels in the US. This is no mean feat for someone who was groomed in the ‘hot’ kitchens of Madras under the tutelage of the great Anna!!

And without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, mouth-watering recipe itself.

Mysore Chilli Chicken

Masala (marinade):

9 long dried red chilies (you can use either the Bedgi chilli from Mangalore or its similar Kashmiri chilli. If you use Kashmir add 1.5 tsp hot chilli powder)

8- 10 Tellicherry peppercorns

1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

6 cloves

I medium-sized cassia bark

2 1/2-inch pieces of ginger

ingredients for the marinade (clockwise from left to right):
top row, from left to right: whole black peppercorns, turmeric & cloves
middle row, from left to right: red chilli powder, water, salt & whole dried red chillies
bottom row, from left to right: cassia, coriander seeds & fresh ginger

1 kg chicken on the bone

chicken on the bone & half of the ground marinade

For the sauce aka ‘kari’

2 1/2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

2 1/2 large onions, finely chopped

10 fresh curry leaves

Salt, to taste

2 medium-size tomatoes, chopped

2 tsp of lemon juice, to serve

‘kari’ ingredients, clockwise from left to right: vegetable oil, fresh curry leaves, chopped onions, remaining ground marinade & chopped tomatoes

Method:

1. Wash and cut the chicken into small pieces, drain till dry.

2. Grind all the masala ingredients to a fine paste, adding a little warm water.

all the marinade ingredients before being ground

ground marinade

3. Keep half the marinade (masala) aside for the sauce.

4. Marinate the chicken pieces in the remaining masala and set aside for 4 hours in the refrigerator.

marinating the chicken

marinated chicken

5. In a large frying pan, heat the ghee/oil and fry the onions with the curry leaves and salt. Cook until the onions are light golden brown. Add the masala to the onions and cook until the oil leaves the sides of the pan.

heat oil in a pan

add onions and fresh curry leaves, followed by salt

cook till it starts to turn light golden brown

add the remaining marinade

fold & cook till the oil leaves the sides of the pan

6. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, or till the tomatoes are cooked.

add the tomatoes & cook

7. Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge, place in a saucepan, cover and cook in its own juices until cooked (this is similar to ‘braising’) Set aside to rest.

place the marinated chicken in a saucepan

cover & cook over low heat

different stages of chicken cooking – just starting to change colour

stir occasionally for even cooking & cook till the chicken is fully cooked

8. Drain the chicken juices (‘liquor’) into the sauce and add a cup of water, if required. Cook till oil leaves the pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

drain the pot liquor into the sauce/’kari’

add some lemon juice

sauce/’kari’, ready to go!!

9. In another frying pan, heat enough oil to fry the cooked chicken pieces till caramelised and ‘bright red’! Drain and set aside.

heat oil in a separate pan

fry the chicken in hot oil, a few pieces at a time

fry the chicken till carmelised & ‘bright red’

drain on a paper towel

top with crisp-fried curry leaves

Serve the Mysore chilli chicken along with the kari on top of steamed Basmati rice, with some crisp fried curry leaves (you’ll see “how to temper kari leaves” on the link!).  (To make great steamed rice, click the link.)

serve on top of hot basmati rice, with ‘kari’ on top & a few drops of lemon juice

voilà, Mysore chilli chicken, ready to go!!

And before I sign off folks, here are a few of Anna’s tips to remember when cooking this dish:

1. To get a bright color from the chillies (if Bediga or Kashmiri chillies are not available), soak them in warm water, do not split them. This allows the chilli to soak in the moisture and concentrates the colors. Discard the water and grind.

2. Tellicherry pepper is the best in the world and has a very strong aroma!

3. Braising the chicken and letting it rest in the juices lets the meat to tenderise , then when you fry it, the outside is crisp and the inside is still moist. The Chinese call it ‘twice cooked’.

4. Once the chicken is fried it may be added to the sauce, or alternately served separately (as I did) on top of the rice along with the kari.

Well, as for me, I would like to have the lot with no rice and no kari, just a glass (or two) of my favourite Mornington Peninsula Nazaaray Shiraz!!! You can have the rice and. . .

Anah Daata Suki Bhava!!

So, how do I know I am cooking Indian food?

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about ajoy

i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

When my son, Aniruddh, asked me casually,

“Dad, having read all your 54 blogs over the past year, I have a question. If I don’t have a recipe book on Indian food and I don’t have an Indian friend to call for help, and I can’t go through all your blogs to get a recipe, and I don’t want to cook what you have done in your blogs, how do I know what I am cooking is Indian and not any other cuisine?”

Honestly, I didn’t have an answer for him immediately, and I told him so, but I assured him I’d think about it for his questions raised other interesting issues, as these things tend to do.

And here are my thoughts.

My first response is that if my son has these sorts of questions there must be others out there who may also have similar thoughts, but don’t want to ask.

So, I continued thinking.

How can I make the seemingly straightforward question ‘how do I know I’m cooking Indian food?’ accessible for people out there?

Well, what I thought might be good would be to introduce people about the basics of Indian food. And when I say basics, I mean the real nitty-gritty stuff. Then I thought that the more adventurous and keen cooks could go on and refer to my cookbooks or my blogs if they felt inclined to try out some of the dishes. Obviously many of you know your onions (!) but tell me if you knew all the following (or took them so much for granted you didn’t even notice them!?) or if you have any of your own ideas that, for you, means you know you’re cooking Indian food.

So, my take on it is this. You know you are cooking Indian when you:

1. Heat the oil until it is hot and about to start smoking before crackling whole spices.

crackling spices

It’s not so much the using of whole spices that makes this process quintessentially Indian, though of course it helps, but it’s the heating of the poly-unsaturated oil that is intrinsic. Cooking the spices this way creates a spice flavoured infusion which will then permeate through the protein (whatever meat it is you are using and even paneer) to give that extra ‘oomph’. It also helps break the protein down in the body for easy digestion. The smoked oil also gets a chance to rise to the top. You can then either leave it to preserve the dish or skim the oil off before serving. We call this first step baghar!

2. Add sliced, or chopped, onions followed by iodised cooking salt. (The salt prevents the onions from sticking to the pan and ultimately stops them from burning; the iodine in the salt is ‘brain food’.)

3. Cook the onions until the sugar is released which is also known as caramelisation. You cook your onions until they are light golden for white meat and cook them until golden for red meat. (Cooking the onions for longer ensures a brighter coloured sauce and it also helps preserve the quality of the dish. We call this bhunao.)

caramelised onions

4. You add the ground ginger, or ground garlic, one at a time and wait until each has caramelised before adding the next – this helps in building the flavour of the dish. Remember, cooking Indian food is like creating a building – it’s layer upon layer. This layering of flavours gives the dish its own identity.

adding ginger

5. You sear the red meat before you add the (uncooked) ground spices. (This keeps the meat moist and adds to the bright colour of the dish.) We also call this also bhunao. You skip this step if you’re cooking white meat.

6. As with our garlic and ginger, when you add the dry ground spices  you do so one at a time.  My rule of thumb is you add first the dry ground chilli (as a general rule I add the chilli first as it takes a little longer to cook and it also brings out the bright red colour in the oil which we call rogan); this is followed by turmeric and then the ground coriander, or cumin. At every stage you cook the first spice and wait till the oil comes to the surface before adding the next spice. Turmeric is added to help bring out the colours and it also acts as an anti-oxidant.

7. Well, in my Indian cooking I now add an acidic substance to the dish. It could be tomatoes, or yoghurt, or a combination of both. You may also add tamarind water here along with the tomatoes, or yoghurt.

adding tomatoes for acidity

8. If you’re cooking with white meat you add it now and fold rather than stir. Your slow cooking starts now.

9. You now cover your pot and place it in a fan forced oven, or a hot plate, with a temperature of around 140-160 C – for about 30 minutes for white meat and 1 hour and 10 minutes for red meat.

10. You serve the dish sprinkled with lemon juice.

“That was the easy bit, son.” I say to Aniruddh when he comes to check on my progress.

My previous points are an established way to cook Indian food but let’s dig further.

Let’s now tackle the ‘not so easy’ part.

“Which is?” my son asks.

“Well,” I reply smiling, “which is, you know you are really cooking Indian when. . .”

1. You use your fingers as measures, and not spoons or measuring scales for a balanced meal. (Each finger represents one of the Five Senses. G-d gave us five fingers, and yes, the thumb is also a finger. Each finger represents a sense and each sense represents an element. The sense of smell is the element of earth (bhoomi), the sense of touch is the element of air (vayu), the sense of taste is the element of water (jal), the sense of sound is the element of ether (akash) and finally, the most important sense is the element of vision (agni).

Using all the senses gives a sense of satisfaction and that in turn gives a ‘balance’ to the meal. And as I pick up my ground ginger with my fingers I sniff it and say to Aniruddh, “If you can’t touch the food you cook how can you even think of eating it, son!!”

2. Well, let’s keep talking about the senses and elements as this is so integral to Indian cooking, our way of life, our philosophy. It’s all so intricately tied together. None of it is separated into neat little compartments. It all flows and meanders into one another. Anyway, remember that Indian food revolves around three fundamentals which are first, that every dish must have salt (we cook our food with salt and notice that you will never see a salt shaker on a dining room  table in an Indian restaurant or home). Cooking food with salt helps it pass through the fibres of the protein, or whatever vegetable it is you are cooking with, which in turn helps in preserving the dish, like a pickle. So, no salt, no pickle!! We call this uppu, or namak, or salt.

3. My second fundamental is that every Indian dish must have chilli. I know the chilli is not native to India but before the white man brought it to this land we only used pepper. We call it mirch. Now it is also known as kali mirch, lal mirch, sufaed mirch or hari mirch which represents a mix of the pepper and the chilli togetherYou may use either pepper, or chilli, or a combination of both, which is what we do in nilgiri’s. we call this kaaram or mirchi or chilli

chillis

4. My third fundamental point is please, don’t forget to add the souring agent which I mentioned above. We call the souring agent puli or khatas.

a souring agent ~ yoghurt

5. We add spices to complement a dish and not to dominate it. Yes!! And so many of you think you need to ‘sweat’ or ‘endure’ a hot meal or drink a jug of water to help you eat our food. No!! It’s not the case.

6. Ah ha. One of my favourites. You are talking to yourself as you cook, just like when you play that wonderful Indian game called shatranj [chess]. Indian food is about making a move with a definite purpose, just like it is in chess. Don’t add [move] if there is no purpose!!

7. You don’t call it a ‘mild’ or a ‘medium’ or a ‘hot’ dish as there are no ‘heat’ measuring scales when cooking! Just take it as it comes. It will not kill you, if anything, it might just help you live longer by increasing your metabolism and also help break down the carbs!!

8. And last, but by no means least, son, you are cooking Indian when you don’t cook with ‘curry’ powder. This just doesn’t exist!! It comes from. . . Well, I’ll leave you to find out where curry powder came from and who invented it whilst inhabiting our land!!

Anah daata sukhi bhaava!!

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