Thursday, 30 December 2010

Recipe: Tandoori Chicken Thighs with Fragrant Saffron Rice

In my photograph (bottom) for this dish you will notice the chicken is not the familiar red colour you may get in an Indian restaurant. That is because I have omitted the optional red food colouring. You can include it if you wish but it will not change the flavour, just the look. 

This is delicious with the fragrant rice. Serve it with yogurt, chutneys, or as a starter with salad instead of rice. The options are endless. And remember, the longer you marinate the more the marinade will break down the protein in the chicken; flavouring and moistening the meat.

Tandoori Chicken…

150g live yogurt
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp freshly grated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp Chilli Powder (Preferably Kashmiri for red colour)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
4 cloves – ground
6 Cardamom Pods, Seeds only – ground
½ tsp red food colouring (optional)
4 chicken thighs

Saffron Rice…

4 Tbsp Veg Oil
6 Cardamom pods (slightly split)
1 Cinnamon Stick (about 3 inches long)
3 Cloves
1 Small-Medium Onion (very finely chopped)
1 Tbsp Butter
½ Turmeric
1 Cup of Basmati Rice
1 Cups of water
tsp Saffron Threads (soaked for 10 mins in 3 Tbsp Hot Water)


Freshly chopped coriander
Lemon Wedges


Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade thoroughly in an ample sized bowl. Marinate the Chicken for at least 5-6 hours covered tightly with cling film. 8 is preferably and overnight is ideal. Do not marinade for more than 2 days.

Pre-Heat the oven to the absolute maximum (usually around 250c).

Wash the Basmati rice in several changes of water and then soak, immersed in fresh cold water for 30 minutes. (This is very necessary for this cooking method so that the grains do not stick and so that they absorb some crucial water)

When the rice has about 10 minutes left to soak, shake excess marinade off the chicken thighs and place them into the pre-heated oven, on a rack with a tray beneath. This will help cook them evenly and prevent them from stewing in their juices. It also helps if you tie them up or wrap each thigh in a little bundle so that the fat protects them from going dry. Use the remaining marinade you have in the bowl to brush onto the meat wherever it looks to be turning a little too dark, too quickly. After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 180c and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your oil for the rice in a pan that has a nice tightly fitting lid. If you do not have this, place a double layer of foil round the top of the pan, then put the lid on (once all your ingredients have gone in). It needs to be tight fitting for this way of cooking the rice. When the oil is hot, add your whole spices to the pan and stir them for about ten seconds or until the start to smell aromatic (careful not to burn them). Add your chopped onion and turn the heat to medim-low. Stir the onion frequently until it turns translucent and loses its raw scent. Next, melt in the butter and add the turmeric. Stir for 20 seconds. Turn the heat back to high and add your rice. Stir for a couple of minutes. Then add your water. Bring to the boil; add the saffron infused water and threads.

Next, cover the rice tightly and put the pot on your smallest burner on the lowest heat (very very gentle). Basically you have very little rice to water ratio in this cooking method. You are half steaming the grains. This will be worth it as they come out lovely and fluffy and not sticky, just like the Pilau at your local Indian.

Remove your meat from the oven when ready. Serve the rice next to the chicken. Garnish with freshly chopped Coriander and a Lemon Wedge to squeeze over the meat and rice.

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