Sunday, October 18, 2009

Diwali and tandoori chicken

Tonight we are celebrating Diwali (dee-vahl-ee) it coincides with the Hindu New Year and you must eat lots of sweets, have many candles lit and lights on, be with family and welcome in the New Year together. It's only my second year celebrating Diwali since the first two years together I had no idea what it was nor its significance. The husband, aka Paco, isn't one to go all out and make a big deal of the holidays. So besides just saying, "Happy Diwali" and making a call to his parents, there has been little on our end here. I wanted to make it a big deal, and I have started off slowly. To learn more about Diwali, check out this link

First we must eat Indian food, so this year I'm cooking instead of a family trip, my parents and the two of us, to Royal India (restaurant 10 min. away). In cooking I can at least feel slightly more connected to the culture.

Other preparations are minor; I bought some candles at the Indian market, ABC, two weeks ago. There are all sorts of fun candles to buy, different colored terracotta pots/cups/stars/flowers with little ‘jewels’ and mirrors glued on and a small votive candle sprinkled with glitter. I bought two sets of two star bursts designs. It doesn't matter what style candles you have lit, as long as there is light. But there are specific candles that are used along with prayer, this we will not be partaking in, per se.

And finally sweets! Give me a dark chocolate bar any day of the week, but these Indian desserts are something else man, talk about SWEEEEET. My in-laws sent us a box of Diwali sweets and we’ll be bringing them to dinner tonight, as I cannot see either of us finishing off the box by ourselves…ever. I’m not knocking the sweets but they are just too much for me. Most have crushed nuts rolled into them, they are soft little finger sweets. Some are little rolls (looking like Combos), others are flat diamonds (my current favorite, an almond flavor), and others are wedges of a ball, layered in colors of green, brown or even pink. Just like a box of chocolates at Christmas, I have successfully taken a nibble of each one to taste test them. As my palate is regaining back its taste buds, 6 weeks of no cigarettes –yeah me!, I can slowly decipher the difference between the sweets, though I have to admit, it appears to be a fine line between some of them.

So I attempted the infamous Tandoori chicken last night and it was a great success. I enjoy making these sauces of yogurt and spices. It's like being a kid and getting to play with a ball of dough, simple and entertaining. The yogurt changes from white to a pink/orange, the different spices' own bold colors lose their identity in the mix, and then you taste it and everything dances on your tongue. Once the mix is slapped together, lube up the chicken and let it marinate for at least 2 hours but you can go over night if you wish. Crank the oven up to 475 and bake these bad boys for 20-25 minutes, I had a 3.5lb bird all cut up into 8 pieces. I served 'em up on a bed of greens, some wedges of lime & red onion to compliment the chicken and of course some naan. Unfortunately, the naan is store bought so it's not the best.

There is a tandoori paste that one can buy, at least that is what the cookbook told me, and since I didn't want a paste filled with preservatives, I opted for my own mixture as described above. I also opted out of adding the red food dye to make the color pop and match the restaurant style. It felt good to not eat nuclear red chicken. Apparently my mother-in-law doesn't add the red, which makes me wonder: Who decided to add red food dye to a perfectly attractive in color on its own dish? Something tells me families in India don't go running out to refill their red food dye stock. But I could be wrong, it's been known to happen.

All in all, another successful dish down. I am liking this new hobby, it's keeping me off the streets!

Oh and should you care to attempt this on your own...


1 3lb chicken, skinned and cut in to pieces
1 cup plain (low-non fat, your choice) yogurt
1 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp ginger pulp (throw ginger & garlic in the Cuisinart, can keep for a week in fridge)
1 tsp garlic pulp
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp corn oil

bed of greens
lime wedges
slices of red onion
tomato, quartered (these additions are completely up to you)

1. Skin and cut up chicken, thighs, legs, breasts, the whole damn thing. Should you desire, cut the breasts up into smaller bite sizes to avoid hackin' 'em up after cooking.
2. Mix together the yogurt, spices, lemon juice, salt and oil. (Should you want nuclear red chicken, this is when you add 1-2 drops of red food coloring)
3. Lube up the chicken with t he mixture, let marinate for at least 2 hours but you can let the bird soak up the goodness over night.
4. Oven heats up to 475.
5. Place chicken in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and place chicken on top of bed of greens (obviously in a serving dish). Add limes and onion/tomato.

** I warmed up naan for 3 minutes in the oven, drizzled a little olive oil on the bread, sprinkled a little water on the bread and served with chicken. **

**TUMERIC WILL STAIN YOUR COUNTER AND ANYTHING IT TOUCHES, should it spill on the counter, clean immediately. ***


  1. Erin,
    I am so impressed with your cooking! Happy Diwali to you!

  2. Thanks Pooja, it's fun and lets me beef up my palate for that spicy homecookin' up in the NJ.