Masala-marinated chicken with minted yoghurt sauce

Preparation time

Cooking time
30 mins to 1 hour

Serves 4-5

From Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight


For the marinade

  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder (the more you use, the spicier the dish)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 40g/1½oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 100g/3½oz low-fat natural yoghurt

For the chicken

  • 1.65kg/3lb 8oz chicken
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh watercress or baby leaf salad, to serve

For the minted yoghurt sauce

  • 200g/7oz low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp ready-made mint sauce


  1. To make the marinade, split the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Put the cardamom seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan and discard the husks. Add the cumin and coriander seeds, cloves and black peppercorns and place the pan over a medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly until the spices are lightly toasted – you know they’re ready when you can smell the spicy aroma.

  2. Tip the toasted spices into a pestle and mortar, or an electric spice grinder, and pound to a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the fenugreek, turmeric, paprika, chilli powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the garlic, ginger and yoghurt, then mix well and leave to stand while you prepare the chicken.

  3. Place the chicken on its breast on a sturdy chopping board and cut carefully either side of the backbone with good scissors or poultry shears. Chuck out the bone and cut off the foot joints and wing tips.

  4. Strip all the skin off the bird apart from the ends of the wings (which are easier to remove after cooking). You’ll find this simpler to do if you snip the membrane between the skin and the chicken flesh as you go. Cut off and discard any obvious fat – it will be a creamy white colour. Open out the chicken and place it on the board so the breast side is facing upwards.

  5. Press down heavily with the palms of your hands to break the breastbone and flatten the chicken as evenly as possible. This will help it cook more quickly. Slash the meat with a knife through the thickest parts of the legs and breast. Place the chicken in a shallow non-metallic dish – a lasagne dish is ideal – and tuck in the legs and wings.

  6. Spoon over the marinade and really massage it into the chicken on both sides, ensuring that every bit of bird is well coated – get your hands in there and really go for it. Cover the dish with cling film and put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for at least four hours or ideally overnight.

  7. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Take the chicken out of the dish and place it on a rack inside a large baking tray, breast-side up. Squeeze over some juice from the lime and season with ground black pepper.

  8. Roast for 1-1¼ hours until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked throughout, tossing the lime quarters on to the rack for the last 20 minutes to cook alongside the chicken. They’ll be good for squeezing over the meat later. The juices should run clear when the thickest part of one of the thighs is pierced with a skewer. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

  9. While the chicken is resting, make the sauce. Spoon the yoghurt into a serving bowl and stir in the mint sauce until thoroughly combined. Transfer the chicken to a plate or wooden board and carve into slices, discarding any skin. Serve with the sauce and some watercress or salad and enjoy!

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