Perfection is hard to find or in this case achieve, especially for something like a Murgh (chicken) tikka which is the pride of the North Indian cuisine. It sits so proudly on your plate. Dark, spicy, aromatic, tender, inviting, you dare not refuse a piece of it (as if you really could!). You just pick up the piece, don't bother with forks or formalities, dive straight into the mint coriander chutney, and bring that piece to your mouth and eat it whole. The succulent chicken, the vibrant flavours nearly drown your senses. Thats when you back it up with onions pickling in a little salt and lemon. Mmmmmmmmm .....
For people who are not familiar with what tikkas are, they are simply marinated pieces of chicken(mostly boneless) that are skewered and cooked over a grill, in the oven or on the stove top.
I don't think there's anything more quintessentially Punjabi than a Murgh tikka or a chicken tikka as it is also known. And given the fact that I'm myself a Sikh and that we've been cooking punjabi food in our homes since the beginning of time (beginning of the punjabi cuisine :D) I can guarantee that you won't find a more authentic recipe to make a murgh tikka at your very own home! No need to go to restaurants now to have this spicy, succulent, tender and amazingly delicious appetizer. I have my elders to back me up on this one, numerous trials and errors and a lot many discussions with quite a few dhaba (Google it please) owners to come at this ultimate recipe.
While on my travels to North India, especially Punjab, the aroma of these tikkas permeated the air we breathed. We used to gorge on tikkas of all kinds. Making these tikkas at home brought me back to those times, and it felt like I was again roaming the streets of my Punjab and I just HAD to share the recipe. So here it goes! :)
Warning: It is highly addictive. If you have it once, you will want to keep eating it again n again n again
Serves : 4
Time: Prep: 5-6 hours Actual time: 30 minutes
12 pieces of boneless chicken (use thighs, not breast)
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder or paprika (to add colour and not heat)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1/2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp onion paste
Second/ Main Marination
1 tbsp carom seeds/ Ajwain
1/4 cup of Chickpea flour/ besan
1 tbsp of oil
1 cup thick yoghurt (use Greek if available or hung curd)
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp salt (add more if required)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp dry Fenugreek leaves, crushed (kasoori methi) - optional
Pinch of saffron + 3 tbsp warm milk
Pinch of love
Oil/ melted butter for basting
2 red onions, sliced rings
Mint coriander chutney
Please do not add red colour. It tastes better without it!
Wash and pat dry your boneless chicken thighs. Cut into roughly 2" pieces. Put them in a bowl and add the ingredients of the first marinade. Use your fingers to rub in the marinade onto the pieces. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Meanwhile, take the tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan and heat on low flame. Add the chickpea flour/ besan to it and keep stirring. Let the flour get cooked. It will give out a nutty aroma and the colour will change from pale yellow to a light gold and then gold. Add the carom seeds to it. Keep stirring constantly so as not to form lumps. Take it off the flame in about 3-4 minutes or till it turns gold in colour.
You can also now add the saffron to the warm milk. This helps releasing the colour of the saffron and brings out the aroma in it. Just how beautiful the milk looks when the saffron begins to colour it in a deep orange shade!
Now take out the chicken from the fridge and add the thick yoghurt to it. Make sure it is really creamy. This tenderizes the chicken and makes it succulent. Add the other masalas, ginger and garlic pastes, the chickpea flour mix, the milk and the saffron and everything else that is left out. Don't forget to add your pinch of love! :)
Mix well. Don't be shy to use your fingers. Massage the chicken well with this marinade and cover the bowl with cling film and rest in the fridge over night. You need to marinate it for minimum of 4 hours. I usually leave it overnight.
To make tikkas,
Soak your skewers in water if you are using wooden/ bamboo ones.
Preheat your oven to 450F or 250C. Arrange your grilling tray on it. Also place a baking tray at the bottom to catch the marinade that drips off the chicken. I don't have an authentic outdoor grill at my place so I used oven. You could even do it on the stove top. But the resultant tikkas are almost the same if cooked in an oven or an outdoor grill except for the charred flavour.
Pierce the chicken pieces with the skewers. Make sure they are well coated with the marinade. Place no more than 6 pieces on a skewer. Make 3 such skewers and place them on the grilling tray in the oven. Keep turning every 4-5 minutes for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the the chicken pieces and the oven temperature. Baste them while turning with ghee/ butter or oil. Ghee will give an authentic flavour. The aroma of the spices should now be permeating through the house....you should be able to make out the distinct fragrance of saffron amongst all the other aromatics. If that doesn't get your stomach rumbling, I don't know what will! :))
Your Murgh tikka is ready. To serve, plate it up along with sliced ring onions. You need to add lemon juice and a little salt to the red onions to take away the pungency. Serve with mint coriander yoghurt chutney and salad. Serve with a lot of love and brace yourself for all the MmmHhhMmmHNnnSss when everyone eats them! Indulge! :))