Tandoori Chicken

by Sabina Kapoor

Tandoori chicken originated in the Punjab before the independence of India and Pakistan. In India, tandoori cooking was traditionally associated with the State of Punjab and became popular in the mainstream after the 1947 partition when Punjabis resettled in places such as Delhi.

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Tandoori Chicken was popularized in post-independent India by the Moti Mahal Restaurant, owned by Kundan Lal Jaggi, Thakur Das Mago and Kundan Lal Gujaral, Delhi, when it was served to the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. The tandoori chicken at Moti Mahal so impressed Nehru, that he made it a regular at official banquets. Visiting dignitaries who enjoyed tandoori chicken included American Presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the King of Nepal, and the Shah of Iran. ~ Wikipedia

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Sabina Kapoor is a beautiful human being, through and through. Beauty is synonymous with her. Her home, her family, her entertaining, her work at her Beauty Spa, all carry her sense of beauty and style. Mother of two charming daughters and now grandmother to two energetic grandchildren, her home is always welcoming visitors from near and far.

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Staying in Punjab, a staple on her menu is Tandoori Chicken, a favourite of the Punjabis. Her recipe is a simple, fuss free and delicious version of the Tandoori Chicken made famous by the ‘Moti Mahal’ restaurant in Delhi. For the modern household, using a tandoor indoors and in apartments is not possible. Sabina Kapoor uses her kitchen counter top oven to get the same taste and texture as chicken cooked in a tandoor. This makes her recipe of Tandoori Chicken a must have for all of us.

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Her secret is that she buys a raw chicken and deep freezes it for about 24 hours before defrosting it to start the marination process. According to her this helps in softening the chicken and makes the flesh less stringy. For getting the right flavour she uses two marinades. It is also important to marinate the chicken for as long as she has suggested. In fact, for convenience sake she marinates portions of the chicken in food grade Ziploc bags and keeps them in the freezer. This makes it easy to have a party dish ready when unexpected visitors arrive.

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Tandoori Chicken

First Marinade

Ingredients ~

500 gms broiler chicken, cut into 6 pieces
3 inch piece ginger
6 garlic pods
1 tsp salt

Method ~

1. Weigh the chicken and cut into appropriate pieces.
2. With a knife, make deep gashes on both sides of the chicken pieces.
3. Make a paste of ginger and garlic and rub this thoroughly on the chicken pieces.
4. Leave in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

Second Marinade

Ingredients ~

½ inch piece nutmeg/jaifal,  ground
3-4 flakes mace/javetri, ground
1 tsp roasted cumin, ground
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp hung yogurt
2 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
A pinch of dry powder orange colour, optional

Method ~

1. Heat the mustard oil to smoking point, cool.
2. Beat the hung yogurt.
3. Add the powdered masalas, nutmeg, mace, roasted cumin and salt to the yogurt.
4. Mix in the mustard oil and the powdered colour if using.
5. Apply the second marinate to the chicken pieces and refrigerate for minimum of 24 hours for best results.

Cooking Method ~

1. Heat the oven to 250*C, use the setting to heat both the upper and lower electric rods.
2. Place the chicken pieces on the oven wire rack. This will ensure the chicken pieces are heated from the top and the bottom.
3. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes.
4. Take out the wire rack from the oven and brush the chicken on both sides with cream.
5. Place the wire rack back in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until cooked through.
6. Once cooked through, take the wire rack out and sprinkle some roasted cumin powder/jeera and dry mango powder/amchoor on the chicken.
7. Squeeze some lemon juice over the chicken pieces.
8. Serve hot with green coriander and mint chutney, onion rings and roti or naan.

Kali Gajar ki Kanji

by Maya Khanna

Kali Gajar ki Kanji  or Black Carrot Kanji is a fermented drink made in North India with black carrots around the time of Holi, the festival of colours. Black carrots along with ground mustard are fermented in water to make a delicious beverage. This traditional fermented drink is healthy and aids digestion.


Before the 17th century, almost all cultivated carrots were deep purple, almost black in colour. Dutch farmers developed the modern day orange carrot by crossing various cultivated and wild carrots. According to the World Carrot Museum, black or purple carrots are Middle Eastern in origin, and may have first appeared in Turkey or Syria. They are more common in countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Turkey.


While purple carrots provide many of the same health benefits as orange carrots, they also offer some extraordinary nutritional benefits due to their high concentration of anthocyanins, which give black vegetables and berries their intense hues and strong health-boosting properties. Anthocyanins in purple carrots may provide health benefits like anti-carcinogenic effects against colon cancer cells, strong anti-inflammatory properties, eye health protecting qualities and improved vascular health.

Maya Khanna is an exceptional cook and the person to go to for traditional Indian recipes, sweet or savory. Her skill in the kitchen has been enhanced by her having to entertain at home on her husband’s insistence. From having large family gatherings to entertaining business associates, she has cooked for all and her food is much appreciated for its taste and variety. Her expertise in the kitchen is much acknowledged by all and documenting her recipes is a must.


She shares with us the recipe of a traditional drink, Kali Gajar ki Kanji. It’s generally made in the beginning of the year when black carrots are available in North India. She demystifies the making of this delicious drink with her super easy recipe. The only hard part is waiting for it to ferment so as to achieve the right degree of sourness.


Kali Gajar ki Kanji

Ingredients ~

1/2 kg black carrots
2 lts water
5 tbsp red rai/mustard, ground
2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp red chili powder

Method ~

1. Wash the carrots, peel them and cut them into 2 inch batons.
2. In a steel vessel, boil the water. Add the carrots and bring the water back to a boil.
3. Take it off the stove and leave to cool uncovered.
4. When cold, add salt, ground rai and chili powder.
5. Cover the vessel with a muslin cloth.
6. Keep it covered for 5 days in the sun, for the flavours to mature.
7. Once sour, convert into a glass, covered jug and refrigerate.
8. Serve cold in glasses accompanied with the carrots, which can be eaten on their own as pickles.
9. Keeps well for 2 weeks in the fridge.


Punjabi Cauliflower, Carrot & Turnip Pickle

by Sharda Kapur

Winters in North India see the abundance of seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, red carrots and turnips. This abundance has encouraged people to make use of these vegetables in a variety of dishes whether sweet or savory. They are cooked on their own in a number of ways, added on to meat dishes, used raw in salads, stuffed into rotis and converted into a number of pullaos. The Punjabis use these vegetables to make delicious pickles, some sweet, some sweet and sour, some with just a hint of spice. Each household has its own special recipe.


Sharda Kapur shares with us her recipe of a Punjabi Cauliflower, Carrot & Turnip Pickle or as it’s popularly called ‘Gajjar, gobi, shalgam ka aachaar‘. She uses onions, garlic, ginger, jaggery and vinegar in the right balance to impart a sweet and sour flavour to the pickle. While the vegetables are in season do try this recipe and enjoy the pickle with family and friends.


Born in Amritsar, Sharda Kapur, was a sportsperson throughout her growing years. In college she represented Punjab University in Badminton and was a State level Table Tennis player. Her interest in food started only after her marriage into a large family in Mumbai. On her insistence that her mother make her pickles, she was told to learn to make them herself. She started collecting recipes and trying her hand in making seasonal pickles. The recipe for the Punjabi Cauliflower, Carrot & Turnip Pickle has been shared with her by her sister-in-law Promilla Khanna, renowned for her culinary skills, with many Cook books to her name.


Though the procedure of the pickle seems a little daunting, it is easier to follow the recipe step by step and once you’ve got that in place, all the ingredients simply need to be mixed together.


An important tip is to coarsely grate the onion, garlic and ginger. This way they add bulk to the masalas, yet don’t over power the main vegetables. As Sharda does not get too much sun in her apartment in Mumbai, after the boiling the vegetables, she places them under a fan to speed up the process of drying.


Punjabi Cauliflower, Carrot & Turnip Pickle

Ingredients ~

1kg combined cauliflower florets, carrot batons, turnip slices
60 gms red onions, coarsely grated
30 gms ginger, coarsely grated
30 gms garlic, coarsely grated
60 gms red mustard/rai, ground
60 gms salt
60 gms Kashmiri red chilies, ground
1 tbsp garam masala, ground
150 gms jaggery
100 ml malt vinegar
250 ml mustard oil

Method ~

1. Cut the cauliflower into medium size florets, peel the carrots and cut into 11/2 inch long batons, peel the turnips and cut into half moon slices.
2. Boil water and add the vegetables. Take off the fire and leave for 5 minutes. Strain and discard the water.
3. Spread the vegetables on a clean kitchen towel and leave to dry on the kitchen counter over night.
4. Combine the jaggery and the malt vinegar in a pan and heat to mix. Leave to cool.
5. Heat the mustard oil to smoking point. Take off the stove and leave to cool.
6. Grate the onion, ginger and the garlic coarsely. Keep them separate.
7. Fry the onion in the mustard oil till golden, remove with a slotted spoon.
8. Similarly fry the garlic and the ginger.
9. Combine all the ingredients in a steel vessel. The blanched vegetables, the spices, the sautéed onion, garlic and ginger, the malt vinegar and jaggery mixture and the remaining oil.
10. Transfer to a glass bottle, shut tightly and place in the sun.
11. The pickle should be ready in about 5 days.
12. Serve with rotis and pullaos.


Sweet & Sour Chili Pickle

by Urmila Kapoor

The chili pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum. In Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and other Asian countries, the word “pepper” is usually omitted.


The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids.

Chili peppers originated in the Americas and were introduced to Europe by Christofer Columbus. Cultivation of chili pepper spread across the world and was used in both food and medicine. Chilies were brought to Asia by Portuguese navigators during the 16th century. ~ Wikipedia


South Asian pickles or Indian subcontinent pickles are made from certain varieties of vegetables and fruits that are finely chopped and marinated in brine or edible oils along with various Indian spices. Some varieties of fruits and vegetables are small enough to be used whole. Some regions also specialize in pickling meats and fish.

The most common South Asian-style pickles are made from mango and lime. Others include cauliflower, carrot, radish, tomato, onion, pumpkin, palm heart, lotus stem, rose petals, ginger, Amla, garlic, green or red chili peppers, kohlrabi, cordia, kerda, purple yam, karonda, bitter gourd, jackfruit, mushroom, eggplant, cucumber, turnip and lapsi.


A wide variety of spices may be used during the pickling process such as asafoetida, red chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek. Salt is generally used both for taste and for its preservative properties.

Homemade pickles are prepared through the year and kept in the sun while stored in porcelain or glass jars with airtight lids. The high concentrations of salt, oil, and spices act as preservatives. Many commercially produced pickles use preservatives like citric acid and sodium benzoate. ~Wikipedia


Urmila Kapoor or Ammi as she is fondly called by all who know her is an expert cook. Her innate sense of taste has made her cooking legendary among family and friends. Her recipes are much sought after. Seasonal pickles are a gift much looked forward to by her appreciative family. She makes two kinds of Chili Pickle, a Stuffed Red Chili Pickle and the Sweet and Sour Chili Pickle whose recipe she is sharing here.


As Ammi says, since I was 11-12 years old, I started having a sore throat. So, I was not allowed to have anything sour much to my dismay, as I loved the pickles made by my mother. My mother would prepare mango pickles at home but I was not allowed to have any. Time went by and I got married. My mother-in-law used to prepare home made pickles for the family and friends but when she was no more with us, I thought that I should learn the art of making tasty traditional food including pickles that the elderly women of our times were good at.


The recipe I am presenting here has been taken from an old lady who was very good at preparing different kinds of foods and pickles. I have made a small change to her original recipe. Her recipe originally used Green chillies for the pickle, but when I saw beautiful red chillies in the market I preferred them to the green ones. I felt they gave the pickle a beautiful colour and made the pickle more appealing. The family and visiting guests love this pickle with savory matthis.


Sweet & Sour Chili Pickle

Ingredients ~

1 1/2 kg  Red chilies cut in rounds
125 gms Salt
400 gms Tamarind
160 gms Ginger, grated
125 gms Garlic, grated
40 gms Jeera/Cumin, coarsely ground
130 gms Rai/Red Mustard Seeds, coarsely ground
300gms sugar
500 ml vinegar
400 ml mustard oil


Method ~

1. Wash, dry and cut the red chilies.
2. Weigh them when cleaned to get 1 ½ kg.
3. Soak tamarind in vinegar for two hours, mash the pulp and strain it.
4. Heat the oil to smoking point. Remove from fire. When it cools down, fry the grated garlic and ginger till golden brown.
5. Add tamarind pulp, salt, jeera/cumin and sugar. Cook for about a minute.
6. Add red chilies and rai/red mustard seeds. Fry for about 10-15 minutes or till the gravy becomes a little thick. Then cool and place in a jar.
7. Put it in the sun for 2-3 days.
8. Serve with savory mattis, hot parathas.