There comes a time when a spice jar gets so old you keep it anyway, for curiosity value. I have a nutmeg jar, nearly empty, that has ounce weight on the label. That makes it pre-1972, when we changed to decimals, much of which nobody understands. How tall is a 165cm gangster? Beats me. The nutmeg jar is a nice imitation cut glass design with a silver and blue label and a red Hoyts logo. Since spice jar use-by dates give you a few years, someone must have bought the jar in the late 1960s, possibly when Hey Jude was topping the charts. How did it come to be in my kitchen? No idea. Picked it up somewhere. Probably borrowed it from my mother's kitchen years ago.
Spicy barbecued chicken.
One tablespoon each chili and coriander powder
One teaspoon each turmeric, fenugreek leaves, peppercorns, and salt
5 green cardomom pods
1 black cardomom pod
1 piece star anise
2 cloves garlic
1 inch peeled ginger
1 inch cinnamon
1 pinch asafoetida
1 grate of nutmeg
One half-teaspoon sugar (brown or jaggery if you want to be pointedly but pointlessly authentic, but it will just vaporize anyway. The recipe won’t know the difference. Or you could use honey.)
Vinegar, about three-quarters of cup to blend the ingredients into a sludge with a grainy texture. I have variously used cider, brown and white. All fine
1 cup yogurt
One chicken, jointed
Process everything except the yogurt and the chicken. Then fold the yogurt through the mixture and coat the chicken pieces, pressing the mixture under skin or into slashes where applicable. Store chicken in the fridge in a covered marinade dish for at least a couple of hours.
Fire up the barbecue. I use a hill of coals or charcoal piled up to a couple of inches beneath the grill, tapering down from the summit to allow for heat variation. When coals are ready, grease with a little melted (it soon will melt, if not actually explode) ghee and place chicken on grill. Cooking time is entirely dependent on your grill, prevailing weather conditions, wind direction, which gin and tonic you’re up to, etc etc. Cook each side of the chicken pieces on the hottest part of the grill and then move to a cooler part for cooking through without burning. Lid? Yes. My barbecue does not run to a hood, so I use the large lid of an old wok to cover what's cooking. It recirculates the smoke perfectly and turbo-charges the barbecue flavour before releasing the smoke at last to drift on the evening breeze probably as far south as Glenlyon Road. The fat drips and flares, the spices crackle and burn, the chicken crisps and, sometimes, heads pop over the fence.
On one corner of the coals, I cook the rice. You can do this inside, of course, but the mellow aroma of quality Basmati rice slowly simmering in a pot on the barbecue adds a further dimension to the whole shooting match. Smoke and steam. Then there’s the fenugreek roti of course. I buy that in, and just heat it. I’m no baker.
Serve the chicken on the rice and drizzle a raita 'salad' of yogurt, tomato, cucumber, white onion, and a sprinkling of cumin seeds over the chicken. Slices of ripe tomatoes, wedges of lemon and a sprig of coriander to garnish. Drink: very cold beer.