Hats off to Kundan Lal Gujral who decided to experiment with the food he served in his restaurant in pre independence Peshawer. He ended up cooking chicken in a hot tandoor or clay oven which was normally used to make bread at the time. (Now that is the kind of “innovation”, “pro-activeness” and “out of the box thinking” that you always hear about in whatever organization you work for.) So good was the resulting Tandoori chicken that Nehru, who got taste of it, decided that it must be served to visiting foreign dignitaries at banquets. Today it is a staple on menus around the world.
Making tandoori chicken involves marinating chicken in a yoghurt and spice mix and roasting it in a very hot tandoor. Don’t stress out if you do not have a tandoor at home because it can be made in a normal oven as well. And while I have listed out many spices, the effort involved is quite minimal, a lot lesser than what a regular curry requires.
For Coriander mint Chutney
- Grind together all the ingredients for Tandoori Masala (except curd) to a fine powder. Mix in the curd thoroughly. Adjust seasoning.
- Make thin cuts all over the chicken with a knife so that the masala gets absorbed into the flesh. Squeeze lime juice all over the chicken, including the cavity. Rub the salt over the chicken, especially on the cuts made into the flesh.
- Place the chicken in a plastic container and pour the marinade over it. Using your hands, rub the marinade all over the chicken and into the cavity. Make sure the marinade coats the chicken everywhere. Let the chicken rest in the fridge atleast overnight or for 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 200 C. Put the chicken, breast side up on a rack, and pour over half the ghee. Roast at 200 C for 45 minutes. Then, pour remaining ghee over the chicken, increase temperature to 240 C and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
- Leave to stand for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, onion and cucumber slices and coriander chutney.
- For the chutney grind together all ingredients except curd in a food processor. Mix in the curd and adjust seasoning.
- You can dry roast the spices before grinding them for enhanced flavor.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon red food colouring to the marinade for that fiery colour you get in restaurants.
If there is a heaven and if I am going there, I sure hope they serve Tandoori Chicken there. Enjoy!