• Yield: Serves 6

For as long as I can remember, it has been a tradition to organise a family barbecue each summer. We marinate the meat together the night before and the final result is beautifully tender, succulent, charred and feverishly smoky. This dish uses a Mughal cooking technique called dhuandaar to impart the flavour of smoke into cooked chicken. While not essential for this dish, it is a really simple and effective way of bringing the barbecue flavour to your dishes any time of the year. All you need is a small piece of coal… intrigued?

LISTEN: Saliha Mahmood Ahmed finds inspiration in dishes from the Mughal empire


  • 100g Greek yoghurt

  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger

  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated

  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala

  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

  • Pinch of salt

  • 800g skinless and boneless chicken thighs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 small piece of coal, about 4 x 4cm (optional) – make sure it has not been doused with commercial lighter fluid

For the Salad and Raita

  • 800g beetroot, trimmed (reserve and thinly slice the stalks)

  • 70ml olive oil

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 1 red chilli, finely diced

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • Handful of beetroot stalks (optional)

  • Generous handful of fresh basil leaves

  • 200ml buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Salt, to taste

Khazana by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed


Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan), gas mark 7. Put the yoghurt into a food processor or blender together with the ginger, garlic, basil leaves, garam masala, chilli flakes, cumin seeds and salt. Blitz until you have a smooth, vibrant green purée and pour it all over the chicken. Cover with cling film and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Put the beetroot into a roasting tin and roast for about 30–45 minutes, or until a knife can slide through them easily. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling away the skin. Cut three-quarters of the beetroot (about 600g) into thin slices and arrange on a platter. Make a dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, half the diced red chilli, the cumin seeds and sliced beetroot stalks, if using, together in a pestle and mortar. Add the basil leaves and salt to taste and bruise lightly. Spoon this dressing over the sliced beetroot. To make the raita, grate the remaining beetroot and combine with the buttermilk, remaining diced red chilli, ground cumin and salt to taste.

To cook the chicken, place a griddle pan over a high heat and brush lightly with olive oil. Add the chicken thighs and griddle for 5–7 minutes on each side until cooked all the way through. Put the cooked chicken into a wide casserole dish with a heavy, tight-fitting lid. Put a metal tablespoon into the casserole dish, on top of the cooked chicken. Now take the piece of coal in some kitchen tongs and hold it directly over the gas flame on the hob until it catches (it will take at least 5 minutes for the coal to become really hot). Carefully place the glowing coal on the metal tablespoon. Working quickly, pour the oil onto the piece of coal: smoke will form immediately. Place the lid on the casserole dish and allow the smoke to infuse the chicken for about 15–20 minutes. Serve the smoked chicken with the beetroot salad and raita.

Excerpted from Khazana: A Treasure Trove of modern Mughal Dishes by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed. Copyright 2020 Quercus.

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