When I mention the use of pomegranate in Indian food it takes a lot of people by surprise. For some it’s almost unimaginable to think of it as a predominant ingredient in Indian curries as opposed to just a garnish of sorts. Pomegranate or anardana as its known; is quite commonly used in a lot of North Indian cooking. From curries, breads, raitas and tikkas the seeds are used fresh which are readily available in India; or dehydrated and sold dry. Dehydrated pomegranate seeds lend that required sweet & sour flavour in curries or chutneys. A lot of recipes also call for pomegranate powder or even juice. It’s the perfect souring agent lending that tangy slant to a dish.
The menu on one of my classes recently featured this gorgeous ingredient as part of a chicken curry with chillies and garlic. Not surprisingly it went down an absolute treat. I remember visiting Mughlai/ Punjabi restaurants in India with my family and scrolling through the menu decidedly knowing what I was to order. For me the all time favourites were Reshmi Tikka (made with cream and ground nuts) also Kandhari Murgh; moist succulent chicken pieces coated in a thick marinade. Each bite was a perfect mix of heat from the chilli, tangy flavours from the pomegranate and warmth from fresh ginger and garlic. With a sprinkling of chaat masala for that added spice and tartness this dish was delicious dunking each bite in pudine ki (mint) chutney eaten with crispy onion rings.
Most Indian recipes for kandhari tikka call for pomegranate juice or syrup; I have used pomegranate molasses. It’s the sort of fruit syrup where I could drink the whole bottle! Very moreish, sticky, sweet and tangy with a perfect balance to marinate your meats in. I also added some of dried pomegranate seeds as they coat the chicken pieces and add a crunch. Again for this recipe I have used Kashmiri chilli powder as I’m hoping for heat but also a fiery red colour for the chunky chicken pieces. Feel free to swap it for some mild red paprika and pinch of chilli powder. Though I have used chicken breast, boneless chicken thighs would be good too.
I really can’t get enough of this murgh tikka; charred around the edges wrapped in parathas with red onions and chillies scoffed down in record time!
Add the gram flour and the yoghurt in a bowl. Mix well to get rid of any lumps to form a thick paste like consistency. Gradually add the ginger and garlic paste, chilli powder, molasses and pomegranate seeds along with the garam masala powder & salt. Tip in the chicken pieces and mix well making sure to coat them well in the thick marinade. Leave to marinate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200c/ Gas mark 6. Thread the chicken pieces onto wooden skewers and place them on a wire rack. Roast the pieces for 7-10 minutes. Turn them over & baste with melted butter. Put them back in the oven for 5-7 minutes until they are cooked through and slightly charred around the edges. Serve the kandhari murgh warm with roti or parathas, lemon wedges and an onion salad.