- Food & Drink
Pick up a picnic
Growing up in Portsmouth, summer was always spent on the beach. We’d pile into the car: me, my sisters, my cousins, a few friends, and a parent or two; and drive down to the seaside ‘before the rush’, which meant 8am. By 8.30am we’d have colonised a few metres of pebbles, marking out the edges of our territory with Disney cartoon beach towels and inflatable rubber rings.
A day on the beach lasted at least eight hours. Six of those would be spent in the sea. The fact that it was cold, rough and clotted with seaweed didn’t matter. We’d swim back and forth along the shore till our skin puckered up and our hair was in knots. We spent so long in there that the sea stayed with us when we got out. I’d drift along on waves that carried me long after I’d dried off and gone home.
When we weren’t in the sea, we were eating. You need a lot of calories to stay warm in water that cold. Mum would haul a huge cool box with her down to the beach. It was full of smaller boxes – old ice cream tubs mainly – with different snacks and sandwiches in them. The challenge was to eat everything in there. Even the things you didn’t really want, like apples. That way a lighter box could be carried back to the car and the risk of developing a hernia was halved.
Bucket o' chicken
I don’t remember when tandoori chicken first started appearing in our beach picnics. I’m guessing mum saw a recipe for them in a magazine and had a go one day, and it was so popular that she never stopped making it. But I’m not sure. I could ask her, I suppose. But then were would my past be without a little mystery in it?
Instead, I prefer the memories. Of how the drumsticks were damp and sticky when I picked them up out of the tub. My fingers were always gritty with sand and salt, so the chicken had a mineral tang beyond the seasoning mum put in. The chicken was so cold and the spice cupboard flesh was so fragrant. When I think about beaches, I hear the crunch of our feet on the pebbles, smell the rot of blistered seaweed in the sun, and I taste that chicken.
I could’ve asked mum for the recipe but I’ve learned that you can’t remake the foods from your childhood. They never taste the same. So I don’t try. Better to have one type of tandoori chicken as a memory and another kind, here and now, for a picnic.
I made this version with ingredients from Waitrose, after they sent me a voucher and asked me to create a recipe that summed up my Taste of Summer. You can find more blogger recipes for the #TasteofSummer campaign here and details of how to enter their #TasteofSummer competition to win swish prizes here.
This recipe makes a lot of tandoori chicken. And I do mean a lot. I fed around 16 people on it this Sunday. It’s easy enough to halve and you can use thighs or wings in with the drumsticks. Just adjust the cooking time, checking your chosen chicken bit is cooked through.
The fresh peach relish will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. It makes a great dip by itself or serve it with Lancashire cheese and crusty bread for one of those ever-so-rustic meals that humbly lets people know just how great at food you are.
Tandoori Chicken with Peach Relish
For the tandoori chicken
2.7kg chicken drumsticks
8 garlic cloves
4 green chillies
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
12 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
A pinch of saffron threads
11/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
300g Greek yogurt
Coriander leaves, to serve
For the fresh peach relish
6 ripe peaches
3 fat spring onions
1 green chilli
A handful of fresh coriander
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pull the skin off the chicken drumsticks, slicing it off by the bone. Slash the drumsticks a few times with a knife and stick them in a tub.
Peel and crush the garlic cloves. Pop them in a food processor. Finely grate the zest from the lemon. Slice off the white pith so you just have the yellow flesh. Roughly chop it. Add to the garlic. Halve the chillies. Scoop out the seeds (or leave them in for a hotter tandoori). Roughly chop them and add them to the processor with the grated ginger.
Bash the cardamom pods in a mortar with a pestle to open them up. Shake out the black seeds and discard the green pods. Add the cloves, fennel seeds and peppercorns to the cardamom seeds. Grind for a minute or two to roughly crush the spices. Add them to the processor with the rest of the spices and the yogurt. Add a good pinch of salt and blitz to mix them all together.
Pour the yogurt marinade over the chicken. Turn them to coat them in the marinade. Leave them in the fridge overnight to marinate.
Heat your oven to 240°C/Fan 210°F/Gas 9/475°F. Line a couple of baking tray or roasting tins with foil and brush them with oil. Lift the drumsticks out of the marinade. Arrange the drumsticks on the trays or in the tins and roast for 30-40 minutes till they are well coloured and cooked all the way through.
While the chicken cooks, put the peaches in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 5 mins to loosen the skins. Drain them and gently pull the skins off. Run your knife around the equator of each peach and pull them apart. Scoop out the stones. Finely chop them.
Peel and dice the spring onions. Halve the chilli. Scoop out the seeds. Chop it as finely as you can. Finely chop the coriander stalks and leaves. Finely grate the zest from the lime. Mix the peach flesh, spring onion, chilli, coriander and lime zest together with the grated ginger.
Juice the lime. Stir the lime juice, cider vinegar and sugar together till the sugar dissolves. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir the lime dressing into the peaches. Leave it for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours mellow.
When the chicken is cooked, pile it up onto a platter. Romantically strew it with coriander leaves and serve it with the peach relish. It’s also good for picnics served cold.