Ultra-spicy! Home-made tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken is one of the Asian subcontinent’s many contributions to fine dining. A ‘tandoor’ is the Hindi word for the special clay oven used in this style of cooking. If you have no tandoor to hand, fear not. Here’s a way to produce a pretty fine imitation in your own kitchen.

Ultra-spicy! Home-made tandoori chicken

To make Tandoori-style chicken for four willing slaves to Indian cuisine, you will need:

  • 800g of chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of plain yogurt
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 25mm fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and black pepper on demand
  • Bunch of fresh coriander leaves

A traditional tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven 500mm wide and 1,5m deep. In its depths, a charcoal fire glows like a well set-up braai. Stainless steel hooks hold the chicken in the midst of the radiant heat.

So, what if you (like 99,9% of my readers, I’m sure) have no tandoor but yearn for tandoori chicken? You use the griller in your oven, of course.

But more of this later. We have a marinade to set up.

1. Peel and grate the raw ginger. Crush, peel and finely chop the garlic. Squeeze
the lime and save the juice. In a bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, half the lime juice, paprika, ground coriander, yogurt, and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. We assume that the 800g of chicken consists of skinless boneless fillets; cut these in half. Dump the breasts in the bowl containing the yogurt mixture and let them marinade for an hour, turning them a couple of times to ensure total immersion.

2. Rev your oven’s grill to the red line. Arrange the marinaded chicken breast sections on a baking sheet. Having ensured that the grill is as hot as hell at high noon, slide the baking sheet plus marinaded chicken under the blazing heat for four minutes. Turn the breasts, drench them in the residual marinade, and give them another four minutes, by which time they should be lightly browned. Ensure that the chicken is cooked right through, but don’t overdo it.

3. While all this is going on, prepare basmati rice following the instructions on the packet, or improvise like this: rinse the rice twice in cold water to remove the rice dust. Pour in fresh cold water at a ratio of 3:1 (water:rice). Add half a teaspoon of salt, bring this to a rolling boil, kill the heat, and fit the lid. Let the rice continue to cook either with the residual heat of the hob or at a very low simmer. Serve when the water is absorbed and, of course, test by taste.

4. Serve the breasts on a layer of basmati rice. Pour a little of the cooked marinade over the chicken, then garnish with a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and a little lime juice. The best non-tandoor-oven chicken ever!

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.