It might just be my warm blooded Indian-ness, but for me it’s only just starting to get warm enough for al fresco dining. And I can’t wait to get grilling. I love BBQ food and outdoor cooking — but it can get tiresomely samey. Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice hot sausage as much as the next girl, but by late summer even the most passionate pork fan must be sick to death of myriad pig. There’s so much more you can do with a BBQ than rolling out these British staples. So here’s how to impress your garden party guests this summer with a tandoori twist.
The next best thing to a tandoor
We all associate the word tandoori with Indian food - tandoori chicken is very popular and some even use the word as a sort of nickname for a curry house. Very few realise that tandoori actually means cooked in a tandoor. Traditionally (and still in India today), a tandoor is a clay oven, fired by wood or charcoal. Resembling a large bowl shaped vase, food would be cooked in a tandoor on skewers (like tandoori chicken) or slapped to the oven walls, like how you make naan bread.
Today, although they work in the same way, tandoors are metal and usually gas or electric powered. Obviously, not many outside of the Indian restaurant business own a tandoor, this is mine and it's regularly fire it up in the garden.
But a BBQ really is the next best thing. Because it’s so enclosed, a tandoor gets very smoky and extremely hot - exceeding 260ºC - giving tandoori food its unique crisp and earthy flavour. To replicate these conditions, the trick is to get the inside of the BBQ as hot as possible. Once your coals turn white, chuck some wood chips in and close the lid for at least 10 minutes. This guarantees maximum temperature and smokiness. When you’re ready, throw your food on, leaving the grill uncovered for as little time as possible. Close the lid and only check when you absolutely have to, otherwise the temperature will drop too far.
That's the rub
The secret to the soft, flavoursome taste of tandoori goes beyond the cooking itself — the prep is equally important. A tandoori marinade is usually a mixture of yoghurt, herbs, spices and a bit of lemon. The secret is that this cooks the meat a bit before it hits the grill, giving it the tender juiciness we’re used to. So here are my top tips for the perfect marinade.
- Keep the meat on the bone - This imparts flavour throughout the cooking process
- Remove the skin - Otherwise the flavour won’t infuse into the meet itself. You can remove the skin easily using a standard J Cloth for grip
- Score the meat to the bone - Again, this makes sure the flavour of the marinade goes all the way through the meat
- Keep the marinade as dry as possible - You can use kitchen roll to soak up excess liquid from your yoghurt. Just spread the yogurt out and leave it for 10 minutes or so.
- Marinate in two stages - First marinate in lemon and herbs for ten minutes, then add yoghurt and spices marinade, leaving it for at least an hour, but ideally overnight
- Brush with oil or ghee - While it's cooking to make it as tender and soft as possible.
I explain the full process in this short video:
I’ve got loads of recipes that work just as well on the BBQ. Here are my favourites:
- Chicken Tikka - Yummy pieces of chicken on skewers even better with red onion and peppers.
- Tandoori Prawn Skewers - soft and delicious cooked on skewers or all wrapped up in banana leaf parcels
- Tandoori Paneer for your vegetarian friends. I like to keep the pieces of paneer nice and chunky.
- Seekh Kebabs are so flavoursome great with a spicy Mint Chutney too.
- Chapli Kebabs small flat beef patties called chapli because they look like flip flops - perfect for the summer!
Or try these delicious BBQ accompaniments:
- Mango Salsa mango, chilli, coriander - no more needs to be said!
- Lemon Rice beautiful way to jazz up your rice - summer in a bowl
- Spiced Potato Stuffed Pepper a true family favourite
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