“Chaat” is a term used for a whole genre of streetfood which is hard to describe in one sentence, but one part of it encompasses a lot of simple vegetables and fruits tossed in some tangy and spiced lemon-based dressings with a blend of spices that are known as chaat masala. “Chaat” literally means to lick, as in finger-licking good… and they generally are. This chicken chaat is based on the one we ate growing up but we normally had it as a chopped salad, so everything mixes well with the tangy dressing. For a proper salad (rather than a streetfood snack), I like to serve it on a plate, drizzled with lots of dressing for that real chaat flavour. If you have friends round, serve on fried tostadas (flour tortillas, cut into small rounds and deep-fried until golden), drizzled with a little Tangy Herb Chutney (recipe below) mixed with some crème fraîche, or in tacos with the same chutney and sour cream. Scatter with pomegranate seeds for sweet fruitiness.
1 large skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
good fistful of chopped coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 medium-large tomato
1/2 ripe avocado
1/4 red onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced
handful of chopped lettuce, such as Little Gem
1 1/2 tsp chaat masala
1/4 small Indian green finger chilli (chile), deseeded and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp salted peanuts, lightly chopped
Marinate the chicken breast with 1 tsp of the olive oil, seasoning and the garlic. Leave for 30 minutes if possible.
Place the cumin seeds in a small dry frying pan over a medium heat and stir just until they turn a shade darker and smell aromatic. Remove and grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
Heat a griddle pan or frying pan, add the chicken and cook for 5–6 minutes on each side or until done. I like to cover the pan (with another pan) 2 minutes in, to keep the chicken moist.
Meanwhile, mix together the remaining olive oil, seasoning, roast cumin and a little each of the coriander and lemon juice.
Chop the tomato and avocado into even 1 – 2cm (1/2 – 3/4 in) cubes. Place in a bowl and add the onion, lettuce, chaat masala, chilli and most of the dressing. Toss well to mix and season to taste. It should be tangy, spicy and well-seasoned. Add more lemon juice if necessary.
When the chicken is done, you can slice it thinly and place on top of the salad, drizzled with the remaining dressing and remaining coriander, or chop into small bites and mix with the salad, dressing and remaining coriander. I also like the flavours to marinate for a bit before serving, so make it up 10–15 minutes before serving if possible.
Scatter over the peanuts and serve.
Tangy Herb Chutney
This is a lovely, versatile chutney that is tangy and herby rather than sweet. It is the cornerstone of all north Indian snacks. We love it with our samosas, bhajis, pakoras, kebabs and most other things. There are many variations: some will add a little sugar, some raw garlic, and others yogurt. This is how we like it in my family and it is a perfect base from which to experiment if you want.
Makes 200ml (3/4 cup)
60g (3 cups) coriander (cilantro) leaves and some stalks
2 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
20g (3/4 packed cup) mint leaves
25g (1/4 cup) pistachios (shelled weight)
1/2 garlic clove (optional)
4 tbsp water
Blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy; it might take a minute or so.
Taste and adjust the seasoning and tang (lemon juice) to taste.
Keep in an airtight glass jar in the fridge or freeze until ready to use.
Recipe excerpted with permission from I Love India by Anjum Anand, published by Quadrille September 2017.
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