Week 36: Chicken Tikka (cooked in a homemade tandoor oven)

This week’s New Food Club post has a pretty awesome back story: Meatopia.

Yesterday we went over to Marlow for the 30th birthday of our friend Rich, who had decided to host his own Meatopia (inspired by the London event) to celebrate.

Basically the idea is everyone brings a barbecue and some meat to cook. All the barbecues are set up in the garden and the cooks make enough of their dish for everyone else to have a small portion. Everyone then gives a score out of 10 for how good they think it is. At the end of the day the person with the highest score is the winner.

It’s a genius idea and there was some impressive barbecuing going on from Italian-style porchetta, deliciously juicy marinated lamb, three-meat kebabs, and the centre piece, a spit-roast suckling pig cooked by our host. Plus some great puddings like Welsh cakes and barbecued bananas with melted Mars bar. (It was a full belly kind of day!).

So to get to this week’s post, Ben’s Meatopia offering was chicken tikka. But not just your average chicken tikka. Chicken tikka cooked in a tandoor oven. A tandoor oven which he’d made himself. I know.

About two weeks ago I went to Exeter for the weekend and returned to find this in the garden.

tandoor1

Ben had seen Jimmy Doherty building a tandoor on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feat a while ago (check it out here if you want to find out how it’s done) and as soon as he heard about Meatopia he knew that was what he wanted to make.

I’m sure he could explain it much better than me, but it’s basically a galvanised bin with an air vent cut out at the bottom. You then put sand at the very bottom, a layer of brick on top and then some half bricks on which sits a terracotta pot. You put hot coal at the bottom of the tandoor and then cook your meat, on skewers, in the centre of the pot.

tandoor4

We did a test run the week before the event (I say we – this is all Ben, I’m just the taste tester!), but had to finish off the chicken in the oven as the tandoor didn’t really get hot enough. Some adjustments were made (cutting off a bit of the pot to make it shorter and using more coals) and it was spot on for Meatopia.

Ben used a chicken tikka recipe from The Hairy Biker’s Great Curries book for his marinade, and mixed it all up on Friday morning, the day before the event. tandoor3

On the day it went much smoother than the test run, with the tandoor getting super hot, and cooking the chicken perfectly. The chicken had a great flavour, a spicy kick (although less spicy than the test run as that had been eye-wateringly hot!) and you could taste the smokiness from the tandoor. 

tandoor5

In the test run Ben had served the chicken on homemade naan bread, which you cook by literally slapping the dough on the side of the pot. It’s cool watching the naan thicken and take on the bubbly texture naan as it cooks in the tandoor, but Ben decided against it for Meatopia as there wasn’t enough space in the pot to cook enough for everyone.

Naan from the test run
Naan from the test run

Instead he served the chicken in a chapati wrap with a mint and yoghurt sauce (also from The Hairy Biker’s book, and made by me, although it really was just mixing mint sauce, yoghurt and sugar together!).

The finished wraps were a hit, and Ben came a close second to the awesome suckling pig.

This tandoor has probably been the most extravagant New Food Club experiment to date and it was an all out success. It’s very cool to see one of Ben’s (slightly bonkers) ideas turn into something so delicious. Good (m)eats all round!

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