Served at the beginning of a meal, starters are what gives the guests a preview of what’s to follow. Like a movie trailer. Mine falls under the genre of a drama, filled with anticipation, excitement and a surprise climax.
To say that my parties are considered incomplete without non-vegetarian starters would be an understatement. Honestly, there’s a favourable bias towards the non-vegetarian lot as they enjoy the best of both worlds. Am guilty of falling among this biased lot.
Quite frankly, I prefer to socialise more than being ensconced in the kitchen all day long, despite my interest in cooking (mostly quick and easy). That’s what makes me look for short cuts and dishes that don’t require last-minute deep frying/roasting/grilling. Baking allows for a breather as the dish is in the oven through the stipulated cooking time, to give me time enough to catch up with conversation as the food bakes.
To start with, let us try this much-visited chicken starter recipe. My favourite, for three reasons – easy to fix, may be prepared a day or two ahead of the event and tastes succulent. With no elaborate grill or any similar equipment, any teenager could get a party going with this starter.
What you need to get this act together
250gm boneless chicken, cut into medium sized squares
A tablespoon of milk cream, preferably Amul
A green chilli, the darker the better
1 to 2 tablespoons green coriander leaves
A fourth of a teaspoon of ginger
A fourth of a teaspoon of garlic
A teaspoon of red chilli powder
A teaspoon of garam masala powder
A teaspoon of kasuri methi
A teaspoon of grated cheese
A half teaspoon of salt, or as your taste buds deem fit
A pinch of orange-red food colour, preferably the Falcon brand.
A tablespoon of refined vegetable oil.
Half a beaten egg
How to cook the kebab
Dry-grind the indicated ingredients except for the chicken, cream, egg and, of course, the food colour. One may dispense with the ginger if need be, but the garlic cannot be escaped.
Give the ingredients a single spurt in a mixer to make a coarse paste* to which the chicken cubes may be added. In my experience, coarse mixtures help retain good taste and flavour.
Drop in the beaten egg, followed by a pinch of food colour. Then gently massage the marinade into the chicken.
Heat a small amount of oil in a cooking pot, add the marinated chicken and stir-cook till done. Use the toothpick test to check if fully cooked.
Skewer the chicken pieces, drizzle some oil over the skewered botis and roast directly over a gas flame till darkish spots appear.
Cube the chicken into medium-sized pieces, neither large nor small – to allow the skewer spike through the heart of the pieces without any heartbreak.
Keep the marinated meat refrigerated for at least a day, if not a week. This will get the marinade right to the heart of the matter getting it all juicy and succulent.
Pack the marinade into a tight-fitting container, the tighter the better so as to help the juices squeeze into the meat. Slim fit.
Use steel or glass containers as far as is possible. Except for the Tupperware brand, avoid storing marinade in plastic containers for obvious reasons.
If well-marinated, there won’t be leftover masala after stir-cooking which is a sign of the masala having been thoroughly absorbed into the meat.
Stir-cooking the marinade before roasting/grilling ensures that the meat is eighty per cent cooked. On the other hand, if the raw marinade is directly skewered and roasted, it runs the risk of getting chewy. Dog food then.
Use an oil spray to drizzle oil over the skewered kebabs to avoid an oil spill as from using a regular oil can.
Piping hot right from the flame to the living room. Served on a platter of raw onion rings, torn mint leaves, lime wedges and green chutney. Go creative if you may in serving the kebabs with orange rings, cilantro, tomato wedges and lettuce, to add a dash of colour to the presentation.
Some more pointers
The chicken boti masala may be used for prawn kebabs as well.
Good quality food colours are available at one of my preferred local haunts, Golden Stores, Borivli, Mumbai.
Marvel Cold Storage, Borivli, Mumbai is my best choice for decent poultry.
*Coarse paste Refer my article on cheese balls