Tandoori chicken is made in a tandoor. I do not have a tandoor. This is, therefore, simply grilled chicken with Indian spices. But let me keep talking about tandoori chicken for a little bit longer anyway.
Tandoori chicken has come to be identified, both outside and inside India, with a particular look (red: usually achieved with food colouring) but all it literally means is “chicken cooked in a tandoor”. Some of the best tandoori chicken I’ve had has not looked anything like what we usually think of when we think of tandoori chicken. This un-tandoori chicken, on the other hand, does. I’ve not used red food colouring (now banned in Delhi and environs) to achieve this resemblance: I’ve instead used copious amounts of deggi/Kashmiri chilli powder, which is very mild and generally used to impart colour; it does also have a mildly smoky flavour (I’m not entirely shallow).
I should also say before I go on to the recipe that I’m not really very good with a grill. I’ve been grilling for more than 10 years now but each time it’s as though for the first time. At least with meat (I’m better with fish, oddly enough). I haven’t had too many disasters but it’s always by the seat of the pants.
The seat of my pants My haphazard floundering produced a very nice result this time and here it is for your exotic delectation.
- 8-10 chicken drumsticks (or you could use a combination of thighs and drumsticks)
- 1 cup plain yogurt (maybe a bit more)
- 1-2 tblspns ginger, crushed
- 4-6 tblspns Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tblspn freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 lime
- 2 tblspns cilantro, chopped
- 1 big pinch chaat masala (available at any Indian grocery; MDH is a good brand)
- Make a few deep cuts in the chicken pieces and set aside.
- Mix the next four ingredients with some salt to make a light brick red paste and marinate the chicken in it, mixing well, for 12-48 hours in the fridge. Remove from the fridge one hour before grilling.
- Get your charcoal started.
- While your charcoal is getting going scatter the sliced red onion on a platter, squeeze half the lime over it, add some salt and the cilantro and toss thoroughly. Set aside.
- Once the charcoal is ready pile it all up on one side of the grill.
- Oil the grill grate lightly, shake as much marinade as you can off each piece of chicken and place it on the side of the grill where the charcoal is not.
- Cover the grill and adjust the vents to cook at a low temperature and cook, turning a couple of times (basting with the excess marinade each time), till the chicken is done.
- Then transfer to the hot part of the grill and crisp up a bit (or a lot)
- Place the chicken on the marinated onions, pulling some of the onions and cilantro over the chicken. Squeeze the rest of the lime over the chicken, sprinkle the chaat masala over and serve with parathas or rice and chholar dal.
- I know the cook time is less than imprecise. See the part above where I referred to the seat of my pants.
- I usually remove the skin from the chicken when grilling like this but forgot to on this occasion. As a result, when I failed to pay attention during the crisping up part, quite a bit of the skin got scorched. Not a disaster as you can scrape the burnt bits off before eating. You might want to either remove the skin or pay attention.
- As our kids were going to be eating this as well I didn’t add too many spices to the marinade. If you like you could add a tablespoon of cumin powder as well, and maybe some crushed garlic too.