A big thank you to Kathy Gori from The Colors of Indian Cooking for this recipe!
A note from Kathy:
So, another one of my birthdays passed in Plague Time. I haven’t done any birthday celebrating since March of 2019. That’s a while.
In March of 2020 I was in isolation with Covid for my birthday. In March of 2021 I was vaccinated but taking no chances. March of 2022, I’d gotten my booster in February, so I was now as ready as I was ever going to be to celebrate my birthday, and I figured why the hell not fire up the Homdoor Tandoor and invite some friends over to semi-party. Usually, we fill the house, this time it was just a few friends and kids in the garden for an outdoor Indian lunch.
Of course what to cook? It was a birthday, and I hadn’t had one of those in going on 3 years. BTW, I did not count those missing year birthdays so I’m actually 3 yrs younger. Those are my new plague years rules, live with it. We are all 3 yrs younger.
I thought the perfect dish to cook for a company tandoor lunch would be something regal. The ultimate royal tandoor dish would be Tikka Mughlai. We were going all the way back to the days of the Mughal Empire. We’d have lamb, flowers, Basmati rice, saffron, and all the fixings. I even baked a Chai and Apple Cake and decorated it in gold. There’s a story behind this cake…wait for it.
We had Goldilocks weather, not too hot not too cold. perfect to set a table in the garden.
Tikka Mughlai is the product of the merger of Islamic cooking with the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent during the rule of the Mughal Emperors in the early 1400s to the mid-1800s. Its recipes are rich with aromatic spices, butter, cream, saffron, dried fruits and nuts. This cooking takes time, it’s where one sees the gold and silver leaf, the edible flowers as decor. The Works! Make no mistake, this is the food of the elites! Perfect for someone who hasn’t celebrated in going on 3 years.
One ruler, in particular, Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame took this cooking to the heights, expanding the use of spices and lavish panoply. Meals were fit not just for a King, but for an Emperor. So, yeah, perfect for my garden. I decided to go for the gold and prepare Tikka Mughlai.
It seems like a complicated dish, as there are a LOT of ingredients but nothing you can’t find at any market. The main prep equipment is a food processor or a wet-dry grinder (an inexpensive little device that really comes in handy for Indian cooking) I bought mine for about 20 bucks online.
I served this dish over the rice. I used one of the beautiful platters Paula Wolfert had given me. I served it with an Indian Dried Fruit Salad with Rosewater and Star Anise, a mint and pomegranate raita, and a cold Spinach Salad with Peanut and Coconut powder Palak Koshimbar.
We had a great time, good food, good drinks, and good company.
Now, about that cake.
As I said… I baked Nik Sharmas (A Brown Table) wonderful Apple Chai cake. It turned out beautifully but how was it destroyed?
Coming soon… The Dog Ate My Birthday Cake. A tale of theft and a recipe.
So there it is, was it a great birthday after a wait of nearly 3 years? You betcha! Did Tyrion? Follow along on Twitter @kathygori
This recipe feeds: 2
*Needs to marinade overnight.
- 1 lb of marbled meat from a leg of lamb
- A few Yukon Gold potatoes to be halved and placed on the end of the skewers to hold the meat.
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 2 Tbs raw papaya paste
- 2 Tbs ginger paste
- 1 Tbs garlic (or shallot) paste
- 2 Tbs almond paste
- 2 Tbs pistachio paste
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp caraway seed
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- 3 Tbs cornflour
- 3 Tbs vegetable oil
- Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together in a big bowl.
Almond & Pistachio Paste
- If your nuts are not already blanched, add about 1/2 cup of water to a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil. When it’s boiling add in about 15 almonds or pistachios (whatever nuts you are using).
- Take the pan off the heat and let the nuts sit in the boiling water for about 5 minutes. Then drain them and using a soft cloth or paper towel rub the skin off the nuts.
- Grind into a paste using a food processor or grinder.
- Cut open papaya, and remove seeds with a spoon.
- Scoop the flesh into a food processor, and grind it into a paste
- Add ginger to a food processor with a little water, and grind it into a paste.
Garlic Shallot Paste
- Add garlic and shallots to a food processor with a little water, and grind it into a paste.
- Cut the lamb pieces (the Tikkas) into chunks that you can thread onto a skewer.
- Slash the pieces with a paring knife to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.
- Pour the marinade over everything. Stir it around well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours, or overnight*.
- Add 1 tsp of salt to the marinade, mix it in and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Now wipe your skewers down with vegetable oil and thread the tikkas onto them. Add a half potato to use as a stopper.
- Let the skewers rest for 15 minutes before cooking, which gives the marinade a chance to dry out a bit on the meat.
- Heat your tandoor oven. The temperature should be between 480 to 500 degrees.
- Place the skewers into the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, rotating as needed.
- After 10 minutes take them out and rest them on the side of the tandoor oven to let the drippings fall for about 5 minutes.
- Brush them with more marinade then pop them back in for 5 to 8 minutes depending on how well done you want your meat.
*Photo credit: Alan Berger