Tandoori chicken is one of my most favorite things ever. For years, if I was at an Indian restaurant with tandoori chicken on the menu, you would have a hard time convincing me to even think about ordering anything else.
When I first encountered commercial tandoori paste, it was barely a drive home later before I was making my own tandoori chicken, tandoori beef and tandoori whatever else was in the freezer.
I should probably say "tandoori-style whatever else was in the freezer," because "tandoori" does not actually refer to the spice mix. Well, it sort of does... Lemme explain.
A tandoor is an incredbily hot clay oven which is used in much of Asia, though I'd bet most Americans have only heard of them because of tandoori chicken. "Tandoori" means "of or pretaining to the tandoor" and generally refers to food cooked in one. "Tandoori masala" is a spice mix devised specifically for use in a tandoor, coming in regional and individual variations the same way barbecue rub does.
So, until the day I build a clay oven in the backyard (which is on my list of retirement projects somewhere between raising ducks for foie gras and starting one of those gourmet food trucks) when I call something "tandoori," I shall justify doing so because even though I'm not cooking it in a tandoor, I'm using a spice mix made for tandoors.
Which is probably like calling a braised pork shoulder "barbecue" because I coated it in Sweet Baby Ray's, but this is my blog and I'll do what I want!
The whole point of this post, though, is to talk about tandoori paste. While I'm not above using commercially prepared pastes, I can't get my hands on it as often as I'd like. So, when I have a tandoori hankering and no paste at hand, I turn to the following recipe. Readers of yesterday's post will already know where it came from.
The proportions were calculated to give you enough paste to coat a butterflied leg of lamb, and I have halved these amounts when cooking less ambitious meals. Lamb chops and duck breasts have both carried this paste to the grill with pleasing results.
Be warned, though, it is on the hot side -- probably hotter than you're used to if you have used commercial pastes. Adjust the cayenne as necessary.
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup minced ginger
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 1/4 cup cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Rub the mix all over whatever you're cooking in it and place in the refrigerator, covered, for one to three hours before cooking.