What is it about kebabs that provoke such adoration? There isn’t a more popular dish that was destined to spread worldwide over time than succulent pieces of marinated meat skewered and grilled to perfection. The kebab term is applied to Azerbaijani, Armenian, Iranian, Arabic, Turkish, Cypriot, Kurdish, Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Central Asian, South Asian and some of the African cuisines ( source Wikipedia). Kebabs originated from the legendary kitchens of the Nawab of Awadh ( now Lucknow) where culinary arts were at their evolved best and every effort went into the creation of exotic dishes to satiate the palate of the ever-demanding Nawabs much before the advent of the Mogul invasion.
The desire to cook and savor those delectable chunks of meat were sparked off on my journey back from office which bestows me with half and hour of uninterrupted time to ponder on the day and of course food.
So Afghani Kebabs were the order of the day. On my way back I picked up the ingredients (whatever I could recall from memory) from the local grocery shop but wanted to be clear on the recipe so I referred to Afghani Murgh (Cheesy Chicken Kebabs. After a quick rain check on the prescribed ingredients I realized I didn’t have most of them so I ran back to the shop to acquire them. Cream wasn’t available so I substituted it with fresh paneer (cottage cheese) as advised by Poonam (the shop owner).
Here is my version of Aghani Kebabs fairly adapted from The Cooking Ninja which is in turn taken from Moti Mahal’s Tandoori Trail by Monish Gujral.
Boneless chicken (cut into medium cubes) – 400 g
Lime juice – 1tbsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 4 tsp
Salt to taste
Cashew nuts – 10
Milk – 1/4 cup
Cheese spread or grated cheese – 4 tbsp
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
Chilli powder as per taste
White pepper powder -2 tsp
Eggs – 2
Grated paneer – 1 cup
Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger- garlic paste, salt, pepper and lime juice. Lime juice will tenderise the meat for half and hour. While this is marinating, prepare the paste.
Roast the cashew nuts and pound them coarsely. In a blender, add the cashew nuts, eggs and the grated paneer. Add in the milk bit by bit so that the mixture does not become too thin. Blend to a smooth creamy consistency and add the cheese spread. The paneer and cheese add a rich texture to the mixture.
Tip in the mixture onto the marinated chicken and refrigerator preferable for at least 2 hrs. This will enable all the juices to permeate the chicken and add to the flavours.
The preferred method is to arrange the chicken pieces on skewers and grill whilst basting them with oil once or twice between the cooking process.
What I did was to cook the chicken in the marinade on a pan with a little oil. The chicken will release a lot of water but cook with the lid off so that it dries up. Take out the chicken pieces thickly coated with the gravy and arrange on a skewer. Grill these over a gas stove for a charred effect. The smoky aroma of the kebabs were so enticing, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a bite. One bite and I was in heaven. They were soft almost melting in my mouth and simply divine. Often times I am astonished at my own cooking skills.
Serve with a chutney, onion rings and lemon wedges. Sprinkle some chaat masala for added taste if it suits your palate.