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A brand new Indian Tapas menu launches at Raval on 1st June 2015.

It’s hard to imagine that just couple of generations ago, in the late 70s, the term ‘tandoori’ seemed so exotic and mysterious to the British people.

Only adventurous travellers and the most knowledgeable of food fans knew what a tandoor was – and even fewer had sampled a meal from one.

These days, however, like the chicken tikka masala I wrote about last week, tandoori meals have become firm favourites across the UK – as ubiquitous as fish and chips.

Many restaurants even include the word ‘tandoori’ in their name… so I guess that, by now, we all know what a tandoor is, don’t we?

Well, not necessarily. Even though many people are familiar with dishes such as tandoori chicken, in my experience they tend to know less about the cooking process itself.

So what is a tandoor? Put simply, it’s a cylindrical clay oven that cooks food at a very high temperature, giving it a characteristic flavour. Traditional tandoors use charcoal, but modern-day versions tend to be gas-fired.

They are used mainly for meats and breads, especially naan bread. And, as anyone will tell you, they produce a taste that is very difficult to emulate at home.

In my view, all good Indian restaurants should include at least some tandoori dishes on their menu.

Here at Raval, one of the most popular choices from our A La Carte menu is Komdi Masala – succulent chicken breast in a fresh tomato, honey makhani sauce. Another top choice is our Tandoori Thattam – a spiced platter of lamb, chicken and seafood.

And now we’re about to introduce a brand new concept. As part of our Indian Summer Food Festival, we are planning a series of tandoori tapas nights, beginning on Monday, June 1st. It’s our way of giving a modern twist to an age old tradition.

Now I know what you are thinking. Tapas is a Spanish invention, surely? It may well be, but here at Raval we like to think of ourselves as food pioneers…so why not combine two great cultures to create something entirely new?

Our unique tandoori tapas concept will give customers the opportunity to try a variety of small dishes in our relaxed bar area, with prices starting from as little as £4.95.

So make a note in your diary and join us for this unique dining experience throughout June.

In the meantime, whilst you really cannot replicate the performance of an authentic tandoor at home, you can come close.

The first thing you should know about authentic tandoori dishes is that they shouldn’t be bright red! That really is a British thing – and not something my chefs approve of.

Indeed, it’s hard to find good tandoori recipes that delivers on flavour and appearance. The following, however, comes pretty close and is well worth a try. Ideally, you should prepare it a day in advance so the chicken has plenty of time to marinate.

Tandoori Chicken (serves 4)Tandoori chicken 3

 Ingredients

2 tablespoons tandoori paste (see recipe below)

250g natural yoghurt

Juice of 1 lemon

2 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

500g skinless, boneless chicken (breasts or thighs)

30g butter

For the tandoori paste

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons tamarind paste

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 teaspoon grated root ginger

Method

1) Mix the tandoori paste ingredients together until smooth.

2) In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the paste, yoghurt, lemon juice, green chillies and salt.

3) Cover the chicken pieces with the mixture and place in a sealed plastic bag or container. Leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.

4) Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4.

5) Discard excess marinade from chicken and place on a roasting tin. Brush with melted butter (optional) and cover with aluminium foil.

6) Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, basting frequently with the juices.

7) Finally, uncover the chicken and grill for 15 minutes, turning once, until it is brown on both sides.