A tandoor is a type of traditional Indian oven that generates huge heat. Using a tandoor requires a deft touch and really accurate timing. Using my barbecue in the back garden is a lot more forgiving. I really enjoy a good Tandoori chicken. But, not being armed with the right equipment could be a handicap.
One other handicap many of us in the western world face when preparing ‘authentic’ Indian dishes is the pretty awful marinades and spice blends available. This is very often the fault of the sauce manufacturer’s marketing department (SMMD).
Picture the scene; The guy in the heavy rimmed glasses from the research company is at the head of the table, presenting their findings to the SMMD. “74.7% of our target market enjoy Indian food but 63.2% of that cohort prefer a milder dish.” This done with the support of a few Powerpoint slides showing a couple of pie charts and some scatter diagrams.
The Brand Manager for Ethnic Sauces and Dry Spice Rubs (six weeks out of a part time marketing course) feels the need to be seen to contribute to the conversation. “Then, does the data supports reducing the chilli and paprika and replacing the yoghurt with a creamier sauce?” Heavy Rim Guy nods in agreement. In truth, he has no idea what that means, never haven eaten anything more adventurous than a mild cheese sandwich. The meeting has eleven other brands to get through before handing the room back to New Product Development, so the suggestion (supported by the research data) gets the nod. Instructions are passed to production and a “NEW IMPROVED FLAVOUR” marinade is launched on the market.
Nobody is offended by the new sauce. But nobody is particularly impressed either. It’s safe to feed the kids and the parents put up with the insipid flavour for an easy life.
I have had enough of all this and am making my own tandoori spice blend. This with a view to making as decent tandoori chicken as I can on my barbecue.
Ingredients for the Tandoori spice blend
- 100 grammes of ground ginger
- 100 grammes of ground coriander
- 100 grammes of sweet paprika
- 100 grammes of piment d’espelette
- 80 grammes of salt
- 100 grammes of turmeric
- 100 grammes of ground cumin
This list looks very similar to others out there. However, I like to use the piment d’espelette for a richer flavour and a little less raw heat than is some of the other blends around. I also use less salt than others might find appropriate.
To ‘make’ the spice blend, blend the spices together. Reserve a large tablespoon of spice before bagging up the balance and freezing. Freezing keeps them in the dark (unless the light really stays on in the freezer when the door is closed) and holds flavour too. It can be used straight from the freezer.
Add 200 ml or so of yoghurt to the reserved spice mixture.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon and stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into a ziplock bag. Add the (eight) boneless, skinless chicken thighs to the bag. Zip it closed. Massage the sauce to coat the chicken well. Pop it in the fridge and leave overnight.
Fire up the barbecue and cook the chicken thighs. The thighs need to be cooked over a medium heat, NOT hot.
Add the delicious tandoori sauce as you go. Be sure to cook the sauce as well as the chicken as it will be full of chicken bacteria (I don’t want to put you off but I also don’t want to be carrying the can for you feeling unwell).
Serve the chicken with chutney and Naan bread. I strongly recommend making your own. It is really easy to do and very well worth the little bit of effort involved. There are plenty of recipes online. I followed this one on the BBC food channel. It is delicious.
The marketeers may working hard to kill off tandoori sauces and spice mixes. However, try this one. It is very well balanced and full of flavour. You will not be disappointed.