Indian Spiced Whole Roasted Chicken

Indian Roasted Chicken photography © ShulieMadnick
I ran out of dry masala. An Indian spice mix that I buy at an Indian spice shop in Israel. This mix of spices is unique to Maharashtrian cooking from Mumbai. The only other mix that I bought that felt like home was the masala I got at the spice market in Lalbaug spice bazaar in Mumbai. 

I was planning on replenishing when we were supposed to fly to Israel for Passover this past April as I mentioned before.

I have made masalas from scratch in the past but never paid so much attention to achieving a precise match to the spice mixes I grew up on. I have several recipes that I collected over the years. Recipes from my mom, recipes from my trip to India, and a couple of other recipes from Israel. One recipe from Israel was missing one primary ingredient, cumin. It reminded me of the fables of people intentionally omitting ingredients when sharing recipes, which, until it happened to me, sounded like conspiracy theories. But, it might have been a simple oversight?! Thankfully, I am an experienced cook and immediately spotted the glaring omission. I ended up creating a hybrid of the Israeli and Indian spice mixes. 

Indian Roasted Chicken photography © ShulieMadnick
Recipes and exact measurements aside, spices vary. I could only find Vietnamese cinnamon, which is super potent. Its strength affects the flavor profile. I achieved an excellent mix, only smokier. The origin of spices affects the result. Therefore no two spice mixes are the same unless you source from the same suppliers or farms.

In my dry spice mix, I have about a dozen spices, including cayenne as a substitute for Indian red chilis, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, ginger, and cloves.  I couldn't find ground fennel and caraway seeds. It was quite a challenge to grind the seeds. I also realize after the fact that what's known in Israel as Mashya is actually mace.  Mace is the webby exterior of nutmeg, which is a seed and not a nut. I discovered that in large doses, mace is an unpopular hallucinogen due to significant adverse side effects. The amount of it in the recipe was negligible, so I didn't add it. Besides, since we have tree nut allergies, I am always tentative adding it in even though it's classified as a seed. It's not the mace; it's me. 
Indian Roasted Chicken photography © ShulieMadnick 
Ordering over a dozen spices can add up, and grinding, roasting and mixing the ingredients can be time-consuming. I suggest you buy your favorite curry powder (which is masala) and use a tablespoon of it in this recipe. You can also use the green wet marinade by itself or add to it some spices like cumin, cayenne, and paprika that you might have in your pantry instead of curry powder.

I made this combination of wet green masala which is a garlic a ginger paste with green chili pepper,  cilantro and lemon juice, and dry masala rubs often in the past. Still, we didn't enjoy devouring the flavorful Indian spiced roasted chicken quite as much as we do during quarantine. 

I also add the juice of half a lemon to the mix. We usually use lemon to squeeze over fish or chicken to rid of the impurities and then rinse in cold water and tap dry with paper towels before proceeding to cook. Here, I use lemon as a part of the marinade, which gives it an incredible dimension. 
Indian Roasted Chicken photography © ShulieMadnick
Lastly, on the chicken. I recently started buying organic chickens, which might also make all the difference?! The ones I purchased recently released a lot of juices in the roasting process, and I kept basting it throughout the one-and-a-half-hour roasting process. Whether you buy organic or not, make sure you have enough liquids at the bottom of the dutch oven so it won't burn at the bottom. If the chicken isn't releasing enough juices, add some water to the bottom of the ovenproof pot. 

I like to serve this dish with oven-roasted potatoes in olive oil, salt, and black pepper and plain or turmeric rice with sautéed onion, and frozen corn and sweet peas and let the chicken juices seep into the rice. 

Indian Spiced Whole Roasted Chicken


1 whole young chicken
3-4 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves
1/3 of small bunch cilantro, stems trimmed and discarded 
2 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced up into several pieces
1-2 jalapeños, stem discarded and sliced into fourths
Juice of a half lemon
1 teaspoon of salt or to taste (my sea salt is very salty. You might need more depending on the saltiness of your salt)
1 tablespoon curry powder

Masala Rub Prep:

Add the oil, garlic cloves, cilantro, ginger, jalapeño, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a food processor and whiz for several seconds until the masala rub looks like "pesto." You can use only this green masala rub to coat and rub the chicken with or add the one tablespoon of curry powder to the "pesto" and mix. 

Those of you who do not own a food processor, you can try this in a blender or grate the ginger (watch your fingers) on a microplane or fine grater and discard the fibrous parts. Grate or crush the garlic cloves through a grater or a garlic crusher. Or fine chop the ginger, garlic, and jalapeño as shown here by Jamie Oliver to a fine chop in a cleaver like motion. Finely chop the cilantro. Add the finely chopped ginger, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, lemon juice, oil, and salt, and mix. Add the masala/curry powder if desires to the mix and stir.

Preheat oven to a 400 F/205 C.

Rinse the chicken cavities and exterior in cold tap water and dry with paper towels. 

With your fingers gently loosen the breast skin from the flesh working from the bottom and the top sides. Gently releasing the skin and reaching towards the thighs and wings without tearing the skin. Loosen the skin from the top backside, towards the wings, and along the spine, towards the thighs. Work gently, so the skin does not tear. 

Salt the cavities and the skin all around with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. 

Evenly rub the masala marinade into the cavities, and under and over the skin of the chicken. 

Place the marinated chicken into a dutch oven or ovenproof dish with an ovenproof lid and roast with the pot covered for 1/2 an hour. Baste, scoop the liquids released at the bottom with a turkey bastes or a spoon, and gently pour over the top of the chicken. The basting makes sure the chicken stays juicy and tender. Make sure the spice rub doesn't wash off to the bottom when you baste. Cover with a lid and keep checking and basting every 20 minutes for the next hour. You can roast with the lid off for 10 minutes longer if you wish the top of the chicken to be deep golden. If the chicken isn't releasing enough juices, add some water to the bottom of the pot so it won't burn at the bottom. 

Serve with rice and roasted potatoes. Stay tuned for the recipes. 

Refrigerate leftover in the same pot or transfer to a smaller ovenproof pot with a lid. Reheat leftovers, lid on, in a preheated 350 F/177 C oven for 20-30 minutes. 

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