I adapted this from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe where she bakes a whole chicken in a sealed parcel.
Instead, I used bone-in chicken quarters and once they were cooked I pulled all the meat off the bone, making it easier to eat and ideal for feeding a crowd. The rich, aromatic sauce that’s created in the cooking process is wonderfully fragrant without being too spicy and the chicken is moist and tender.
You don’t have to pull the meat off the bones if it’s a sit-down dinner; just serve each person one piece of chicken. You could also use bone-in chicken thighs for smaller portions (adjust the cooking time accordingly) but don’t be tempted to buy boned chicken fillets – cooking chicken on the bone yields a juicier result with much better flavor.
This recipe has a two-step process and although very simple to make, it does takes a while to prepare but the end result is totally worth it. The discarded chicken skin wasn’t wasted either and was used to make Nigel Slater’s Chicken Skin Popcorn – a huge hit with hungry guests while they waited.
I served this together with a rice pulao with saffron, almonds, dried fruits & aromatics; spinach with ginger, onion & chili and a cooling yoghurt ‘raita’ with walnuts, cilantro (coriander), chili and green onion.
The best part is that everything can be made in advance and reheated in a 300F /150C oven, covered tightly with foil.
You don’t have to but I prefer to buy my spices whole and grind them myself; they have more flavor than the ready-ground stuff. Don’t cut back on the amount of oil either; it carries the flavor of the spices.
You’ll also need a food processor.
This dish freezes well once it’s cooked.
INDIAN SPICED BAKED CHICKEN in a SEALED PARCEL
3 and 1/2 lbs (1.5k) of chicken quarters, on the bone
For the marinade:
1 inch (2.5cm) of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 tablespoons of plain (full fat) yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 – 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
For the spice paste/sauce:
8 oz (225g) of onions, quartered
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 oz (25g) of sliced almonds
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
8 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I use grape seed or avocado oil as they’re better at high temps)
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
A good grind of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (an Indian ‘finishing’ spice, available in good supermarkets these days)
Skin the chicken pieces and discard the skin (unless you’re making chicken skin popcorn in which case, lay them flat on a roasting tray, season with salt and pepper and put in the fridge until you’re ready to roast them).
Arrange the chicken pieces snugly in a single layer in a deep roasting pan.
Make the marinade –
Put all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a paste. Brush the marinade all over the chicken and set it aside at room temperature for 2 hours.
Make the paste/sauce –
Wipe out the food processor bowl (no need to wash it). Pulse the onions, almonds, garlic and ginger, pushing the sides down with a spatula until you have a paste. Add the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cayenne and salt – pulse to blend.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat then add the onion paste mixture to the pan and cook, stirring for about 8-10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, a good grind of black pepper and the garam masala. Take off the heat.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C)
Spread the onion and spice paste evenly over the chicken pieces. Cover with foil, making sure the edges are tightly crimped and that there’s some space between the chicken and the foil. Bake for 2 hours or until the meat is all but falling off the bone.
Serve like this or allow it to cool before pulling the meat off the bones and discarding them. Re-heat, tightly covered with foil at 300F (150C) for about 30 minutes.
For more easy Indian dishes, click here.