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17 May, 2022
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tandoori chicken

Tandoori Chicken by Chef Josemaria Bennett, H&S Chef Of The Month

H&S Chef Of The Month

Chef Josemaria Bennett
Chef Josemaria Bennett

Nationality: Kenyan/English(British)

Interview With H&S Magazine

Who Is Josemaria Bennett?

I was born in the 90s. I always wanted to cook from a young age, I’ve been a chef for a decade now, and I’m still hungry to learn more.


Type Of Cuisine?

I like to dabble with different cuisines. But if I had to choose, it would be Indian cuisine because it always uses fresh ingredients. It also involves making dishes from scratch, leaving less space for the use of preservatives and artificial ingredients.


What Inspired You To Become A Chef?

Well, my mum used to be a private chef and I used to tag along with her to the kitchen, and I was her little helper that’s when I realized what I wanted to do, to see how people enjoyed what she made.


What Is The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced In The Culinary Industry?

I would say recently the COVID-19 pandemic affected the industry and many chefs lost their jobs and some had to start their own thing, myself included 😊 which is really hard.


What’s Your Biggest Achievement In The Culinary Industry?

My biggest achievement was when I got to host a cooking show on EBRU TV for five years. I had the freedom of creating my own dishes and also just enjoying the whole experience. It also gave me time to start my own in-home private chef company called rocketmeals.


When It comes To Cooking, What Is More Important To You, The Technique, The Ingredients Or The Creativity?

I would say all, you must try and acquire them to be a better chef, I am still learning new things every day, that’s why I love what I do.


Recipe Of The Week: Tandoori Chicken

tandoori chickenThe Tandoori Spice Blend


• 4 cinnamon sticks (1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces)
• 1 tsp whole coriander (10g)
• 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
• 1 whole mace blades
• ½ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
• 1 tsp whole black cardamom pods
• 1 tsp whole green cardamom pods
• 1 tsp whole black peppercorn
• 1 tsp whole cloves
• ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
• ½ tbsp ground ginger
• ½ tbsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

The Yogurt Marinade


• Plain full-fat Greek yogurt (955 g)
• 4 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tbsp kosher salt
• Grated fresh ginger
• Grated garlic

The Chicken


• 1 chicken thawed

The Tandoori Ghee


• ½ cups ghee, clarified butter (325 g)
• 1 tsp kosher salt

For Roasting


• 1 lemon, quartered
• ½ head garlic, halved crosswise
• 2 fresh bay leaves
• 1 piece fresh ginger, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
• ½ bunch of fresh cilantro
• 3 cups chicken stock (720 ml)

The Gravy


• 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus 2 tbsps (25 g)
• 1 cup reserved chicken drippings, fat separated and discarded, warmed, or chicken stock (720 mL)

For Serving


• Fresh cilantro, chopped
• Lime, quartered
• Traditional Tandoori side dishes, such as rice pulao, naan, kachumbari, and/or aloo bhaji


Preparation: The Tandoori Spice Blend

Set a medium skillet over medium-low heat and let the pan warm for a few minutes. Working one spice group at a time, toast the cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace blades (if using), fenugreek seeds, black and green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and cloves in the warm skillet until each spice is fragrant and lightly browned, a few minutes per spice. Transfer the toasted spices to a plate or small tray while you toast the remaining spices. Let cool to room temperature. Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Once all the whole spices have cooled, transfer to a high-powered blender or spice grinder (working in batches, if needed) and grind the spices into a fine powder. Pour the ground spices into the strainer and sift into the bowl below. Return any larger pieces to the blender and re-grind and sift into the bowl. Add the Kashmiri chilli powder, ground ginger, garlic powder, and nutmeg to the bowl with the ground spices and mix well to combine (if using ground mace, add here). Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. The spice mixture will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Preparation: The Yogurt Marinade

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, ¾ cup of the tandoori spice blend, the lemon juice, salt, ginger, and garlic until smooth.

Preparation: The Tandoori Ghee

Add the ghee to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, until hot. Add 2 teaspoons of the tandoori spice blend (it should sizzle lightly once it touches the ghee), then stir to incorporate and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the salt. Transfer ¼ cup of the ghee to a small bowl and set aside to use for the gravy. Carefully pour the remaining ¼ cups of ghee into a heat-proof container.

Preparation: The Chicken

Remove the innards from the chicken and discard (or save for another use). Pat the chicken dry all over with paper towels. Place the chicken in a bowl large enough to fit the bird, then pour the yogurt marinade all over the chicken. Use your fingers to gently loosen the chicken skin, starting from the top of the cavity and working your way toward the breasts and down toward the legs, being careful not to tear the skin. Use your hands to work the marinade underneath the skin and all over the entire bird. Once well-coated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. After marinating, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2–3 hours before cooking. Arrange a rack in the lower-middle section of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Set a V-shaped rack inside a roasting pan. Once ready to cook, remove the chicken from the yogurt marinade and wipe off as much as possible. Squeeze out as much marinade as possible from underneath the turkey skin as well. Grab the chicken by the legs and carefully transfer to the prepared roasting pan with the breast side up. With your hands, rub about a third of the tandoori ghee over the bird, then rub another third underneath the skin. Reserve the remaining ghee for basting the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the lemons, garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine, wrapping around the bird to secure. Pour 1½ cups of chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the skin is mostly golden brown. While the chicken roasts, melt the remaining third of tandoori ghee in a small saucepan over low heat, or in a small bowl in the microwave. After roasting for 30 minutes, baste the chicken with the melted ghee. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). If the bottom of the pan looks dry, pour in 1–2 more cups of stock. Continue roasting, basting and rotating the chicken every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg reaches 165°F (75°C), 120–150 minutes more. The skin should be shiny, crisp, and golden brown–if the skin begins to get too dark, lightly tend the bird with aluminium foil. Remove the chicken from the oven and baste once more. Let rest for 30–60 minutes. Reserve the drippings, discarding the fat, for making the gravy.

Preparation: The Tandoori Gravy

Add the reserved ¼ cup tandoori ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking frequently, for 3–5 minutes, until the roux is darker in color and smells fragrant and toasted. Add 1 tablespoon of the tandoori spice blend and whisk to combine, letting toast for another minute, until fragrant. Gradually whisk in the chicken drippings (adding chicken stock as needed, for a total of 3 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until thickened slightly. Remove the gravy from heat.


Dressing The Plate

To serve, set the whole chicken in the centre of a large platter for a classic presentation, or carve the bird and arrange the cut pieces on the platter and garnish with cilantro and quartered limes. Serve immediately with the hot gravy alongside, as well as any traditional tandoori sides of choice.


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