Food Recipe: Chicken Tikka
Indian cuisine knows how to handle the heat, and grilled chunks of ginger-marinated chicken bathed in a cool yogurt chutney makes a perfect summer treat
By Louise Crosby
As you will know if you like Asian food, Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular items on Indian restaurant menus, grilled chunks of meat that have been marinated in yogurt and spices, garlic and ginger, then baked in a clay oven (tandoor) and bathed in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce.
Chicken tikka, without the masala sauce, is another version of this dish, just the yogurt-marinated meat grilled or baked in the oven, if a tandoor isn’t available, and served with various chutneys. That is how Meera Sodha presents it in her book Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen, and that is what I offer you today, with a few minor tweaks.
Obviously if you aren’t fond of hot food, cut back or eliminate altogether the fresh or dried chili. But spicy hot or not, Sodha’s preferred accompaniment for this chicken is a bright and tangy Mint and Yogurt Chutney, which can be whizzed up in a blender in no time. Served with a cooling green salad on the side, this is perfect summer food.
Chicken Tikka with Mint and Yogurt Chutney
1¼ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 fresh green chili, roughly chopped
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
If roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two oven trays with parchment paper and coat them with a very thin layer of oil. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in water to prevent burning.
Remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs, then cut into pieces measuring about 1 x ¾ inch, and set to one side in a bowl.
Using a mortar and pestle, bash the ginger, garlic, and green chili with a pinch of salt until it turns into a paste. (Or purée in a blender, using a bit of the yogurt to help things along.) Add the paste to the chicken pieces, followed by the rest of the ingredients and 1¼ teaspoons of salt (or to taste). Mix thoroughly and cover. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to a few hours in the refrigerator (the longer the better).
Shake any excess marinade off the chicken (or else you’ll end up with a curry) and slide the chicken pieces onto the skewers, not tightly packed. Bake in the oven, or grill on a barbecue, turning the pieces over after 10 minutes so they cook evenly.
Serves: 4 to 6
Mint and Yogurt Chutney
5 tablespoons homemade or Greek yogurt
½ ounce fresh mint leaves
1 fresh green chili, seeded and finely sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
pinch of salt
Put the ingredients in a blender and whizz up to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency, adding salt, sugar, and water as you wish.
Eat right away, or store in the fridge in a clean plastic or glass container, where it will keep for 1 to 2 days.
Makes 3-4 ounces (a small jar)
All photos by Louise Crosby
THE EX-PRESS, July 20, 2016