You know what gets really boring? That’s right, those days when I am only allowed to eat protein. I should explain – this is part of the crazy diet I am on at the moment to torture myself back into the shape I was in before the whole knee injury and operation business. There is a reason I never write about the diet: the gourmet side of expat gourmet disagrees in principle with any extremist ways of eating, or diets that result in a culinary tedium. However, I want to get back into climbing and I really don’t want to be fat and weak when I do, so if it takes drastic measures that is what I will do. And miraculously, it works for me. Unsurprisingly though I find it debilitatingly boring. There is only so much steak you can eat before you break and scoff down half a loaf of bread and a block of cheese. And I am prone to cheating. In fact, I am not really sure why I bother at all – I had cake just yesterday, and I tend to go out on crazy benders on Friday nights. Still, here I am, forever looking for new ways to make meat taste interesting. My favourite has to be strips of beef marinated in soy sauce and wasabi. But for something cheaper and more readily available nothing beats juicy tandoori chicken.
I am not going to even try and make this sound hard. Marinate the chicken cuts of your preference overnight and give them 20 minutes under the grill, it really is that simple. However, there is a lazy way and a more food conscious way. The lazy way involves nothing more than buying a pack of tandoori spice mix (masala) from your corner shop. At 75p a pop this will last somewhere between 5 and 10 big feasts. And it will invariably have a more garishly red colour than anything you can ever aspire to make at home, not using food colourings (they will have done that for you). The foodie way entails buying all the different spices and making the masala at home. I will readily admit I have done both. The ready made stuff is convenient, but I like to keep lots of different kinds of spices on standby, and all the spices that go into a tandoori mix in various combinations also make cracking curries. Who cares whichever method you choose, you should do what you are comfortable with and, either way, 20 minutes down the line you will be eating delicious tandoori chicken.
I have to say, I would never order tandoori chicken in an Indian restaurant. Somehow I always crave those greasy sauces which I never seem to be able to (or want to) replicate at home. That is probably because restaurant curry and homemade curry is a whole different animal. Homemade tandoori chicken, I find, is very similar to the takeaway version. So there you go, if you are thinking of tapping into the unfamiliar territory of home made Indian cooking, this is as simple as it gets – and tasty too. Make sure you whip up some raita, its coolness complements the sizzling chicken nicely.
Grilled Tandoori Chicken & Raita (serves 2 girls or 1 boy :) )
500g chicken drumsticks (or whatever you fancy)
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp tandoori masala (shop bought or home made, see below)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
seeds of 10 cardamom pods
1 tsp garam masala
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
small bunch of mint
50g cucumber, finely grated
If you are making your own masala start by mixing all the spices and lightly toasting them. Leave them to cool before you mix them into the yogurt. Judging from the garish hue of red my chicken has in the photos you can probably tell that this time I did not bother and used a spice mix. Unless you are using wings, which would make the job too fiddly, skin your chicken pieces. If you are using drumsticks, in my opinion the best cut to use, make sure you cut through the meat just above the bit where the foot ends – this will cause the meat to contract as it cooks and will result in, well, something to hold onto whilst eating. Make deep incisions all over the drumsticks, this will help them soak up the marinade. When you are ready season the drumsticks with salt, squeeze half a lemon over them and smother them in the marinade, working it through the incisions as well. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge overnight.
The day after. Preheat your grill as hot as it will go. If there is too much excess marinade on the chicken pieces scrape it off. Place them on a wire rack over a roasting tin covered in foil – you will thank yourself for this when doing the washing up. Stick under the grill for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.
In the meantime, whip up the raita. Grate the cucumber finely and squeeze it to get rid of any excess liquid. Using a blender blitz together the yogurt, chopped chilli, mint and lemon juice, then add the cucumber to the mixture. The chicken should be ready now. Don’t worry, it really needs to look slightly charred. Arrange everything prettily, then demolish!
PS This can be made just as easily on a barbecue if you have one.