Sunday 1 March 2009

Whole Chicken baked in Aluminium Foil - Murgh Musallam

It's been a bit of a while since a food post what with all those Treauries on Etsy taking up my blogging time!

So here's another slice of my culinary life.

Yesterday we took advantage of the Marks and Spencers food offer whereby for a measly £10 you can have a meal for two. For those of you who don't know about the National Treasure which is M&S they have stupidly expensive food halls in their shops packed full of tempting delights and I very rarely shop there as I find the prices to be a joke compared with my normal food shops. On the rare occasions on which we succumb we spend an unreasonable fortune on their 'real' food as against their ready meals which made them so famous way back in the 80s. So to get a good meal for two for such a low price is not to be missed. From a rather limited selection we chose the Oakham chicken, vegetables to roast (I had them with a foil baked salmon fillet while I was in on my own last night), a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and a lemon tart. Amazing value really.

The chicken was destined to be devoured on Sunday and as we had delicious roast chicken at mum's on Friday night and didn't fancy it again so soon so I turned to my collection of cook books and finally alighted on Madhur Jaffrey. Her recipes always work wonderfully and cooking Indian at home is always a treat as I love the ritual of finding the spices, lining them up, crushing, roasting and pureeing along with the grating or pounding of the inevitable ginger, garlic and chilli. Even better if there's something in the long ingredients list which I don't have in my well stocked larder as it means a trip to Rusholme to one of my favourite Indian food shops to buy whatever ingredient I need along with fragrant bunches of parsley, mint and coriander which will last well into the week wether they're needed for that day's cooking or not. A generous chopping of mint, parsley and coriander never fails to perk up any dish however dull and mundane. And I really resent buying my herbs from the supermarket - it diminishes the pleasure in the chopping when I think how much I've been ripped of for the tiny, mean plastic bags of slightly sad herbs.

Here's the recipe - if the ingredients list looks terrifingly long, it's not really as the two sections do have some repettion and most of these things should be in your larder anyway if you like to dabble in spices.

Whole Chicken baked in Aluminium Foil Murgh Musallam
by Madhur Jaffrey From Illustrated Indian Cookery

For the marinade:
2.5 cm cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
6 Tbs. natural yoghurt
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 and 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
You will also need:
One 1.5 kg chicken
225g onions
4 cloves garlic peeled
4 cm cube fresh ginger,peeled and coarsely chopped.
25g blanched, slivered almonds (I didn't use these as I just don't like cooking with almonds)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbs paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbs vegetable oil (I used a fraction of this amount, probably less than half)
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala (I used a whole spice mix which I whizz up in our coffee grinder, it tastes much better than the dust you buy in packets)

Make the marinade:
Put the ginger, garlic and 3 tbs of yoghurt into the container of a food processor or blender. Blend, pushing down at the edges until you have a paste.
Add the turmeric, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Blend for a second to mix. Empty into a bowl. (Do not wash out the food processor or blender yet) Add the remaining 3 tbs. of the yoghurt to the marinade and beat in with a fork.
Skin the entire chicken with the exception of the wing tips. Skin the neck.
Put the chicken breast up, in a large bowl or on a platter and put the giblets and neck near it. Rub the chicken, inside and out with the marinade. Set aside unrefrigerated for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, put the onions, garlic, ginger and almonds in the blender or processor. Blend, pushing down with a spatula occasionally until you have a paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cayenne and salt. Blend again to mix.
Put the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the paste. Fry stirring for 8 - 9 minutes. Add the lemon juice, black pepper and garam masala. mix. Turn off the heat and let this cool.
Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.
When the chicken has marinate for 2 hours, spread out a large sheet of aluminium foil, large enough to enclose the chicken. Put the chicken, breast up, in the centre of the foil and put the giblets near it. Rub the chicken inside and out with the fried spice mix. Bring the ends of the foil towards the centre to form a tight packet. All the 'seams' should be 5 cm (2 inches) above the floor of the packet.
Put the wrapped chicken on a baking tray and bake for one and a half hours or until chicken is tender.
It's a nice easy recipe with no tricky bits, but you need to get your hands dirty and if you're squeamish about chicken skin you probably won't be too happy as you do need to get down and dirty with your bird to get all the skin off. A mini chopper is fine for the quantities for both chopping operations and it's nice not to have to clean it out halfway through the recipe. The smell as the paste is frying (in the significantly reduced quantity of oil) is divine and it smells good enough to eat by the spoonful once it's cooled down. My willing helper and partner in eating kindly offered to do the second rub, so I managed a photo of this. I had intended to photograph the whole process, but as usual forgot the first bit and then it all proved a bit too messy to have my camera involved, so the pictures here are a bit random really. Perhaps next time I'll be a bit more organized!
I served the chicken with brown basmati rice which I cooked with a big onion and a good quantity of garlic in chicken stock and some steamed greens.
That was seriously yummy - soft, tender and fragrant. The meat just fell from the bones once the steaming silver package had been carefully opened. It wasn't the best quality chicken in the world, but it was delicious. Where you had a forkfull of the spice paste it was a beautiful mouthful of spicy sweetness. I've never cooked a whole bird in a tin foil package before as I've always been worried about it being a bit limp and sad, but coated in this quantity of flavour, you really can't go wrong. I'll definitely make this dish again.
I didn't say that it was the prettiest dish in the world as these photos prove!
The blended marinade and my cup of tea
The chicken after two hours marinading.
All wrapped up and ready to cook.
Out of the oven and well worth the wait!


  1. This looks and sounds so delicious! I'll be bookmarking to use soon. Thanks for the recipe and it's wonderful to "meet" you.

  2. Wowww!! I made it, it was awesome! Then made it for some visiting family, thrice, they loved it! shared it with a friend, he says its great! Just got response from a cousin---and guess what---he loved it!

    thanks for sharing this awesome recipe.

  3. I've been making this for years, it's wonderful!


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