The classic Chicken tikka kebabs are unique for each family, and the Chefs don’t really like sharing their secret recipes for these kebabs. Some do, but they always leave one essential ingredient out. These kebabs are as ‘old’ and traditional as they get, from North India and Pakistan, from the region that was called the Northern Frontier those days, and it includes Punjab from both the countries.
Every time we made the kebabs in England, I always found they were a little chewy and somehow dried out a little. The same thing happens when I cook them in Canada. However, the last time I went India, I spent a considerable amount of time silently watching people cook and asking questions about why they were doing certain things. The ingredients were almost the same everywhere, but the difference was in the technique and in understanding the texture of the meat before turning them into Kebabs.
I watch these ‘Hand Videos’ making chicken tikka kebabs and some of them make me cringe and scream, “those are not chicken tikka kebabs“. You can smother masalas and spices onto anything and it will taste relatively better than the bland boiled or roasted version. Where most people understand the French cooking techniques, they seem to be unaware of the complex techniques adopted by the old Royal Chefs and how these techniques can transform simple dishes to something extraordinary.
Without digressing any more, I’d like to introduce you to my Chicken Tikka Kebab recipe. Tikka Kebab just means Kebab in pieces, usually referring to those strung together on a metal skewer. Technically, it needs to have a slight orange colour, it needs to be juicy and moist and cooked on high heat. Once off the heat, it is smothered in lemon juice and sprinkled with Chaat masala (a blend of Pomegranate powder, mango powder and other spices).
CHICKEN TIKKA KEBABS
I had to search high and low to get these flat metal skewers, and these ensure the meat is cooked through on in the inside on high heat. The metal skewers heat up, and cook the inside of the kebab as the outside is cooked directly on the BBQ. As metal retains heat and heats up fairly quickly, this ensures a quick and balanced cooking of the kebab, which in turn helps retain the juices. If you notice on this BBQ, the kebabs are being rotated from one end to the other and they were constantly rotated to ensure even cooking. The kebabs are packed very tightly on each skewer, as this also helps retain the natural juices and they don’t dry out at all.
Big batch Chicken Tikka (5lbs of Boneless Chicken breast)
Ingredients for the marinate:
1 cup yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup single cream
2 heaped tbsp ginger paste (make fresh, not out of bottle as it has vinegar which will dry out the kebab)
1 heaped tbsp garlic paste (make fresh, not out of bottle as it has vinegar which will dry out the kebabs)
1 heaped tbsp Tandoori masala (one that contains some red colour, if not, add a couple of drops of red colour and a drop of yellow colour to achieve the orange)
1 tsp red chilli powder
Cut the chicken breasts into 1.5 inch squares and put them into a large freezer bag. Add the marinade and massage it in well. Keep this in fridge for 2-3 hours. Get the BBQ hot for half an hour before you start skewering the chicken pieces.
Add juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Mix it into the chicken well and put them onto the skewers. If you are using flat metal skewers like I did, then grease the skewer lightly first before stringing them on very tightly. If you are using the thin metal stick like skewers, then you would need to use two skewers together to keep the meat pieces intact. So each chicken piece will have two skewers running through them, in a parallel position.
Onto the hot BBQ – keep on rotating every few seconds. I had my son doing this job, and he had to count till 10 and rotate the next one in sequential order. They all turned out perfectly cooked and juicy on the inside. If you feel the chicken is a bit on the dry side, brush some oil onto it as it is cooking on the BBQ. It works wonders.
Serve these with some salad, squeeze some lemon or lime juice on top and sprinkle some Chaat masala for that little zing in each bite.
Lemon juice is not added on the first marinade as it hardens the surface of the chicken. In the olden dates it was used to get rid of the smell of chicken and also as a way to cleaning it. We get very clean chicken nowadays and it doesn’t need the extra lemon juice, it just dries it out. Once I changed this in my cooking, I found my chicken was always moist and juicy.
Hope you get to try cooking my way!