Lasooni tikka or lehsuni tikka is a little less famous than its cousin the murgh or chicken tikka. But in my book, it gets more points for its bold, garlicky, savouriness. This past weekend we ate fresh, homemade whole wheat pitas with meaty mounds of velvety lasooni murgh tikkas and crunchy salad nestled within with a dousing of tangy mint chutney and a creamy cashew nut sauce. What a lunch it was; every mouthful a mardi gras of punchy flavours.
Tikkas and kebabs probably came to India from Central Asia, Persia, Afghanistan and other places on the Silk Route. This country made them its own, imbuing them with spices, scents and seasonings from its own, very rich regional cuisine. Tikkas are boneless chunks of meat, (normally chicken, lamb or goat) marinated and grilled in a tandoor, whereas kebabs are made from ground, finely chopped or minced meat flavoured with a blend of spices and seasonings. These are shaped into flat patties, oval cylinders or tubes ( around a seekh or skewer). Tikkas reign across the robust, tandoori palates of Punjab and Delhi, and delicate kebabs dominate the subtler, more nuanced cooking of Awadhi and Lucknowi kitchens while the royal Nizami menus of Hyderabad in the south have their own array of unique kebabs. Tandoors or vertically deep clay ovens are used to cook tikkas and their typical smoky flavours comes from the white-hot coals of the tandoor. They are so popular that there are entire tomes devoted to the skill of tikka and kebab making.
The lasooni tikka is made with succulent chunks of chicken marinated in a generous amount of garlic and a few seasonings; there aren’t too many ingredients in this recipe. It’s common to use chicken breasts but I prefer to go with boneless thighs for their flavour and fat. You could use a combination of both if you like. Some lasooni murgh tikka recipes call for yoghurt and others don’t. I just feel that a marinade with yoghurt would infuse the chicken (especially the breast meat) with extra moisture and succulence. So I always go with natural, plain yoghurt that I drain in a piece of muslin to get a thick, cream cheese-like consistency, which makes all the difference to the tikka.
My marinade has lemon juice, salt, a little chilli powder or cayenne, garlic, hung yoghurt, oil and a small amount of roasted besan (chickpea flour). The besan helps the marinade hold fast to the meat during grilling.These lasooni tikkas need a minimum of 2 hours of marination but if you want super delicious and garlic-infused tikkas, let them sit in there for 5-6 hours (I marinade them overnight). I don’t own a tandoor or a barbecue, so my tikkas cook under the oven grill. All the work in making tikkas and kebabs happens at the prep. Cooking hardly takes any time. These tikkas take a total of 10 minutes. So, be patient and let the marination lovingly work its way deep into the heart of each tikka.
A green mint chutney with fresh mint, coriander, a clove of garlic, 1 or 2 green chillies, sugar, salt, lemon juice and a couple of spoons of yoghurt is the standard sauce served with kebabs. This can be quickly whizzed together in a processor. Everyone has their version of this chutney tweaking the quantity of the ingredients to suit their taste. Oh and sliced onions and lemon wedges are a must too. Lasooni murgh tikkas or any other tikkas are popular finger food with drinks and work great as part of the main meal too when paired with tandoori rotis or any other flatbread.
- 1 kg chicken thighs, de-boned and cut into walnut-sized chunks
- 3 tbsp garlic paste
- 200 g hung yoghurt (drained of whey) or Greek yoghurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tbsp chilli powder or cayenne
- 75 g chickpea flour, lightly roasted
- 100 ml vegetable oil
- 50 g melted butter or ghee, for basting
- Put the chicken in a shallow glass bowl, pour over all the ingredients except the chickpea flour, oil and butter, mix well to coat all the pieces and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours. The add the chickpea flour and oil, mix thoroughly, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven on max temperature, then turn on the grill at 230°C and place a tray underneath to catch the drippings and thread the chicken onto metal or wooden skewers.
- Grill the tikkas, a few skewers at a time first for 4 minutes, then baste the tikkas with melted butter or ghee, turn and grill for a further 4 minute-5 minutes till done. The tikkas should have a light char and should not be allowed to dry out and burn.
- Remove the skewers and rest vertically for to allow any moisture to drip away. Gently remove the tikkas and serve with fresh mint chutney.