September 2, 2016
Crisp on the outside, soft and succulent on the inside, Tandoori Chicken is the mainstay of Punjabi cooking, with its roots firmly in the Mughal era. This dish gets its name from the tandoor, a charcoal oven with clay walls that cooks flatbreads, skewered ingredients and portions of meat with precision and flavour.
In my home, no summer is complete without mounds of these being served up, with the prerequisite sliced raw onion rings and lemon wedges. In the wettest of British summers, simply keep the oven handy and remember to factor in plenty of time for marinating and preparation. I’ve served mine here with a raw chard and onion salad softened first with a lime and coriander dressing. You can try this the traditional way too, opting for warm naan and an ice cold cucumber and mint raita.
Skin the chicken, make three parallel sideways slits – two on the thigh and on the leg – and place in a rectangular dish.
Peel the ginger, garlic and finely grate into a small mixing bowl. Add the spice powders, the yoghurt, half the lime juice and stir into a smooth paste. Mix salt in to your taste now.
Next, smother the chicken leg portions with this marinade making sure they are well coated. Then seal the dish with cling film and chill until you’re ready to eat. I would recommend a marinade time of at least four hours.
Take the marinating chicken out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature before you’re ready to eat. Mix together the remaining lime juice and oil, using this to baste the chicken every ten minutes as it cooks on a charcoal BBQ. They will take 10 minutes first in the hottest part of the BBQ, then a good half an hour to get charred and cooked through on the cooler edges. But make sure you open one up and check that the chicken juices run clear (not pink) before feeding people!
Alternatively, you can oven roast these. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a shallow baking tray with foil placing an oven shelf on top. Place the chicken directly on the shelf, positioning the lined tray underneath to catch the dripping juices. Cook for 10 minutes, flip and cook for another 10. Then turn them over again, basting with the lime and oil mixture. Cook for ten minutes, then turn over, baste and finish off with another 15 minutes of cooking. You can use the juices that have dripped onto the tray to baste the chicken too as it is full of flavour.
Leave the chicken in the oven for another five minutes, with the heat turned off while you prepare your serving platter. Brush with a little butter or ghee to serve these. Tandoori chicken is also lovely the next day as the spices get to work their magic for a bit longer.