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Tandoori chicken - without food colouring

Written By Reena on 23 Dec 2011 | 05:00

My mum first cooked tandoori chicken when I was seven years old. She had just bought a Madhur Jaffrey recipe book and it was the first recipe she tried. Bizarrely the recipe called for a few drops of red and yellow food colouring which resulted in the chicken being a salmon pink colour. It tasted okay but looked very strange. I kept trying to convince my mum to omit the yellow food colouring so that our chicken would at least have a nice red colour (even if it was fake) as I had seen in our local Indian restaurant. But we continued to eat bright pink chicken through my childhood.

I recently decided to try and make my own tandoori chicken recipe but without using any food colouring. Below is the result and I'm very pleased with it - not least because it isn't pink.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

Wine suggestions from Kevin at halfwine.com
"The hot, spicy, complex flavours of this delicious dish require an equally complex wine that is great as starter; the perfect opportunity for a gew├╝rztraminer such as the 2008 Domaine Mittnacht.  This wine is off dry with complex flavours of lychee, star anise and rose coupled with some bottle aging that should handle the tanginess of the yogurt marinade and counterbalance the darker flavours from the star anise, garlic and cloves."
Serves 2

  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic - crushed 
  • 1 red chilli - finely chopped
  • 7 grams root ginger - peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons fresh natural yoghurt
  • 2 skinless chicken breast fillets (around 300 grams)

  1. Heat a completely clean and dry pan for several minutes until it is so hot that a drop of water evaporates immediately. 
  2. Now add the the star anise and toss until it starts releasing its aroma.  Be careful not to dry roast it for too long as it will burn.
  3. Remove the star anise from the heat and crush finely using a pestle and mortar.
  4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 with the mustard seeds and the cloves.
  5. Put the freshly ground star anise, mustard seeds and cloves into a bowl along with the garlic, red chilli, ginger, tomato puree, chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala, salt and yoghurt.  Stir well to create a paste.
  6. Wash the chicken breasts and cut into one inch pieces. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture and ensure each piece of chicken is thoroughly coated with the mixture.
  7. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and put in the fridge to marinade for at least an hour.
  8. When you are ready to cook the chicken put the pieces on a baking tray and grill on a medium high heat for approximately 7 minutes or until cooked.  Turn the chicken regularly and try not to overcook it as with care it will be tender and moist. 
  9. Serve immediately as a starter with yogurt and mint sauce or in a wrap with salad, your favourite pickle, mint and yoghurt sauce and fresh tomatoes.


About Reena


  1. Great work and great ideas to learn about some delicious recipes

  2. Looks delicious. Would love for you to share your pictures with us over at foodepix.com.

  3. Lovely recipe and gorgeous photos of the results! I like this version without the food coloring Reena! So tasty.

  4. Hi Robin. Thank you for the comment. Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2012. Reena.