Oven Recipes: Tandoori Chicken and Naan Bread

IMG_1725Tandoori chicken has to be one of the most popular Indian dishes, and while making it at home is fairly straight forward, recreating that authentic flavour you get from an Indian restaurant can be difficult to achieve in the home kitchen. This is because the best tandoori chicken is cooked in a tandoor – essentially a very hot clay oven. Tandoor’s produce chicken that is moist on the inside and slightly charred on the outside. What’s true for tandoori chicken is also true for tandoor baked naan bread, the most delicious of which are soft and chewy inside but with a slightly blackened, blistered surface. Tandoors are essentially vertical clay ovens and so it’ll probably be no surprise to learn that our traditional clay/pizza ovens are excellent at producing authentic flavoured tandoori chicken and naan breads. This has to be one of my favourite recipes. The following method shows you how to make it

Tandoori Chicken (Serves 4)

1 whole chicken, jointed into eight pieces, or 1.5kg chicken pieces (legs, thighs, wings etc.) skinned

Marinade One
Juice of 2 limes
1tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sea salt

Marinade Two
100g natural yoghurt
4 cloves garlic, chopped
5cm piece of ginger, chopped
1tsp Garam masala
1tsp turmeric
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp of beetroot powder or natural red food colouring

Mix the ingredients for marinade one into a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and rub with the marinade. Cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge for 1 hour.

Put the marinade two ingredients into a food processor (the mini versions are good) and blitz to a smooth paste. Add to the chicken and stir well to coat. Cover and return to fridge for at least 4 hours.

Next prepare your naan breads.

Naan Bread (Makes 6)

200g plain flour
100g strong white flour
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp sea salt
100ml milk
100ml water
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
2 tbsp melted ghee (or butter)

Mix the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your mixer with a bread hook, if you have one). Warm the milk and water together in a pan until blood temperature (approx. 40°C). Add the yoghurt and melted ghee to the dry ingredients, followed by the milk/water mixture. Mix together until you form a soft dough (add a little more water if you need to). Knead for 5 minutes, either in your mixer or on a floured surface, until smooth. Return to a clean bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour until it has doubled in size. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few more minutes. Cut the dough into 6 even sized pieces, roll into balls and cover again until ready to bake.

Fire your oven to full temperature (this can take an hour or more so calculate the timings carefully between firing the oven and preparing the food). Allow temperature to drop to around 300°C. Keep fire burning but clear a space for a large roasting tin.

Roasting the chicken

Place the marinated chicken pieces onto a wire rack and then put this into a large roasting tin (ideally the former should fit inside the latter). Add a small cup of water to the bottom of the tin and cover with foil (the water produces steam which helps keep the chicken moist). Place the roasting tin into your oven. You should soon hear the chicken start to sizzle. Check the chicken after 20 minutes, it should be cooking nicely but not charred. Remove the foil and put the roasting tin back into your oven for another 10-15 minutes. The heat from your oven should begin to char the chicken – be careful not to overdo it! Make sure the chicken is cooked through and cover again with foil to rest while you bake the naan breads.

Baking the naan breads

Roll each dough ball into a tear shape. They should be approximately 3-5mm thick. I like to cook my naan breads on the brick floor of my oven, so at this stage I clear a space using a wire brush. If you prefer, you can cook the breads on a metal baking tray or cast iron skillet – remember to pop them into the oven though first so they get nice and hot. Your oven should be around the 250 – 220°C mark. Place the rolled dough into the oven and watch it carefully. With any luck it will begin to inflate, rather like a balloon. You should also see it begin to scorch a little. Once you are happy it is done, brush it with some melted ghee or butter, place on a warmed plate and cover with foil while you cook the rest of the batch.

Squeeze chicken with lemon juice and serve with a naan and some salad (and a cold beer). Delicious!

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10. Heavenly Roast Lamb

A break in the rain clouds offered me the rare opportunity to fire up the oven last weekend so I decided to take full advantage of the interlude to cook-up a roast to die for.

The clay oven is fabulous at high temperature for cooking the perfect pizza but if you allow these babies to cool down somewhat, you can use the residual heat to cook sublime roast joints of meat.  It is the way that the ovens cool that creates the ideal temperature profile for cooking perfect roasts.  Last weekend I decided to try roasting a whole leg of lamb and, of course, I recorded the whole thing so I could share it on the blog.

The spices make it look yellow!

The spices make this leg of lamb yellow!

Stage One: Prepare your joint of meat
Normally, with a joint of free range, organic meat I would suggest doing very little with it.  With lamb, maybe some garlic, fresh rosemary, a splosh of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  This time though my wife marinated the lamb over night in a mix of Moroccan spices (a Nigella Lawson recipe I think).  I recommend trying this if you fancy something a little different – it is truly delicious.  Whatever you decide to do make sure your lamb is prepared and ready to go.  Place the joint of lamb in a roasting tin and keep covered at room temperature until you are ready to cook it.

The oven reaches 350 degrees C

The oven reaches 350 degrees C

Stage Two: Fire her up!
Firing the oven for a roast is no different to firing it up for cooking pizzas.  Follow the technique I outlined in this earlier post.  Keep the “full blaze” fire going for a good hour or so because you want residual heat in the whole oven structure – in the bricks and the walls of the oven itself.  You can see from the photo that on this occasion my oven reached 350 °C (it took around 2 hours 15 minutes to reach this temperature).  You may think that this is relatively cool and you would be right!  This was the first time the oven had been fired since last year and so it had a whole winter’s worth of moisture absorbed within it which had the effect of lowering the maximum temperature.  Not to worry though! If you were to put a joint of meat in the oven at this temperature it would be cremated in minutes!

Stage Three: Wait for it!
Allow the fire to burn down.  You can help this along by spreading the embers across the oven floor.  At this stage you need to keep your eye on your temperature gauge which will slowly begin to drop.  When the temperature reaches 260 °C put the tray, together with the joint of meat, into the oven.  Leave the door and chimney open for now.  Cooking the meat at this high temperature for the first part of the roast is what Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall calls the half-hour sizzle and is a crucial part of the roasting process.  Over the next 15-20 minutes or so the temperature will slowly drop.  When the oven temperature drops to approximately 190 °C, block the door and the chimney.  Leave it like this until the meat is cooked.

Cooked to perfection

Cooked to perfection

How long does it take?
Well this obviously depends on the size of the joint of meat and the type of meat you are cooking.  I cooked this leg of lamb for 1hr and 40 minutes after the door and chimney was blocked.  When I took the joint out, the oven temperature was still at 170 °C.  It would have stayed hot for many hours longer so, if your meat needs a little more cooking time, whack it back in!

That’s it.  Simple eh?  Any meat cooked in the oven in this way is mouthwateringly moist, extremely tasty and just falls off the bone.  You should also try chickens (complete with roast spuds) and my favourite, belly pork which is truly sublime! Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on.

Happy roasting!