Hello from a bridge somewhere between Kerala and Karnataka. I’m writing this from a train, where I’ve just had my customary cup of watery coffee served by one of the pantry staff who walk around chanting ‘kwaffee kool drinks lays’ in that solemn, baritone voice that seems to be a requisite for being a pantry staff. I’m sitting here looking out the window as rice fields and thatched roofs and dried-up river beds zip past; I even have a cookie to munch on that I sneaked out of a box I’d baked for my family, and really, life is good. Although it may seem like I’m about to tell you about this wonderful cookie that warrants theft, I’m actually here to tell you about a recipe that’s even better- schnitzel. And not just any schnitzel, a tandoori schnitzel.
I’ll have another cookie while I wait for you pick your jaw off the floor.
This wonderful word that tends to get stuck in your head, (and which to my ear sounds like something between a swear word and a brand of toothpaste) has humble beginnings in our household. Mum and I were home alone one evening, and after a day of making pastry we were beat, and in need of a meal that would be easy and filling. Enter, a couple of chicken breasts, a cup of buttermilk, breadcrumbs, mustard and eggs. What resulted was the most unexpectedly delicious meals I’ve eaten. For the uninitiated, a schnitzel is simply a fillet of meat that gets pounded to within an inch of is life with a mallet, (or a rolling pin if you don’t have a mallet, or a pan if you don’t have a rolling pin), and then crumb fried to the perfect shade of crisp.
The second time we made schnitzel, we wanted to jazz it up a little bit and I said ‘why don’t we use some tandoori masala?’, and because neither of us could think of why we shouldn’t, we did. And I’m so glad we did. Although I have nothing against a traditional schnitzel, I think our version with tandoori masala is a winner. Served with the cool mint chutney, this dish lives upto its name- a little odd and wholly likeable.
Tandoori Schnitzel with Chili Mint Chutney
For the schnitzel:
500 gm chicken breast (4 pieces)
1 tbsp tandoori masala powder
½ inch ginger, crushed
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp lime/lemon juice, allowed to sit for 10 mins)
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups breadcrumbs
salt to taste
4 tbsp oil
For the chili mint chutney:
Handful of mint leaves
1 green chili
½ cup yogurt
salt to taste
Pound the chicken breasts with a mallet until it is ¼ inch thick.
Mix the tandoori powder, ginger, garlic, and salt into the buttermilk.
Marinate the chicken in it for at least two hours.
Pour the egg into a shallow bowl and have the breadcrumbs ready on a plate.
Take each breast out the marinade, shake off excess and dip into the egg to coat fully. Now dredge in breadcrumb mixture and pat to help it stick.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a pan on medium flame.
Transfer the chicken to the pan and fry on both sides until deep golden, about 5-7 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts, adding a tablespoon of oil before frying each piece.
Serve warm with a wedge of lime.
To make the chutney, blitz the mint leaves, garlic, and green chili in a blender. Alternatively, you could crush it in a mortar and pestle.
Add salt to taste.
Stir into the yogurt and chill.