Ah yes, what better post to inaugurate this blog, than the much loved Chicken Tikka.
In it’s purest form, tikka refers to a piece of marinated meat grilled quickly under hot coals. It’s history can be traced back to the kebabs of Persia, from where it made it’s way into the Indian cuisine through trade and colonization. It’s other well known avatar is the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka masala, now the national dish of Britain, where grilled meat is bathed in a frighteningly iridescent orange sauce.
Tikkas are a party food in India. Wherever you find your favorite libation served, be it watered down Johnny Walkers, London Pilsners or Thumbs Up, you will invariably run into kebabs and tikkas of all kinds. Boneless chicken versions are generally the most popular tikkas, their neutral taste makes them a perfect backdrop for a variety of marinades and flavors.
This is a simple yet delicious variety of tikka. Chunks of chicken are marinated in yoghurt and spices and grilled under a gas grill. It makes for a delicious appetizer or a great high protein, low carb meal when paired with a green salad. Generally I think dark meat chicken has more flavor, but in this recipe the tenderizing effect of the yogurt makes white meat chicken an equally good choice.
While traditionally tikkas are cooked in a searingly hot tandoor oven for a couple of minutes, I find that cranking up your gas powered oven/grill to it’s highest setting and placing the chicken in the oven only when sufficiently preheated creates a very suitable cooking environment. If it’s warm enough to grill outside, by all means, do! A coal fired grill can definitely take this recipe to the next level.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken chunks (dark or white meat, based on your preference)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper – or to taste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 4 tbsp thick yogurt
- ½ inch piece of ginger, grated finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated finely
- 1 lime – sliced for garnish
- ½ red onion – sliced for garnish
- A few cherry tomatoes – for garnish
- Trim fat from chicken and cut into 1 inch cubes.
- Prepare the marinade by mixing yogurt, cayenne, garam masala, ginger and garlic.
- Season the marinade to taste – don’t be shy though, a good amount of seasoning is necessary to bring out the flavors. I use about a tsp of salt.
- Stir in the chicken pieces and coat thorougly with marinade.
- Refrigerate and allow to marinate atleast 2 hours for best results.
- Preheat grill or oven to it’s highest setting, my humble gas oven goes up to 500F.
- Place chicken pieces on an oiled metal pan, allowing a good inch between pieces. I shake off the excess marinade before placing the chicken on the tray, to prevent the chicken from “stewing” in the liquid while in the oven.
- Spray the chicken with a good quality oil spray or drizzle with about a tbsp of oil. Grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point and works well in such a hot oven, but canola will do as well.
- Grill or bake for about 20 minutes, turning frequently to prevent burning.
- You want your pieces to be fully cooked through (no pink!) with a small bit of char for flavor.
- Serve with red onions, cherry tomatoes, a wedge of lime and/or a green chili if you’re really brave.