Allyson Gofton - Moghul Kebabs

Publish Date
Friday, 21 November 2014, 12:00AM
By Allyson Gofton

Bay leaves are a distinguished herb. Their official botanical name, laurus nobilis translates to laurel (or wreath)  and so it was in ancient times the bay was the laurel with which victorious warriors, sportsmen and poets were crowned.

Aside from its more noble history, the bay leaf offers a warm distinctive and even sweet flavour in our cooking that brings a roundness in the many dishes they are used in.

Bay leaves are one herb that improves with drying as the slightly bitter notes strong in  fresh bay leaves are diffused during drying.

While bay trees seem an expensive purchase, they are long living and grow to remarkable heights making them great for hedges or even topiaries.

To dry bay leaves, cut stems of leaves from the tree during the day when no moisture is left on the leaves and place the leaves flat in a dark place to dry. Once dry store away from light and heat in a dry well sealed container. Kept this way they will last for 2-3 years.

When buying fresh bay leaves, look for shiny green leaves with no signs of blemish. For dry bay leaves, make sure they have a good green colour, no yellowing.

Always use bay leaves with caution as they can have a strong over powering flavour if a heavy hand leads and always remember to remove them before serving the food to your guests. For this reason it is best to use whole leaves – they are easier to find!

Moghul chicken kebabs
Bay leaves are essential for the garam masala spice mix used to marinate the chicken in this recipe. Their warm, spicy flavour is further imparted into the chicken by skewering the leaves between the chicken pieces on the kebabs. Brushing the kebabs with egg mix during cooking gives a crusty coating, a technique I learnt on a trip to Delhi.

Serves: 4-6

Spice mix:
3 dried bay leaves
½ cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1½ tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 heaped tablespoon blade mace
1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
8 boneless chicken thighs
1 cup non-fat thick plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons spice mix
About 12 fresh or dry bay leaves
1 egg


  1. Crumble the bay leaves and place in a spice or coffee mill with the cinnamon stick. Add the remaining spices to a hot frying pan and cook over a moderate heat for about 2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant but not burnt. Shake pan regularly so that they toast evenly. Cool. Add the toasted spices to the mill together with the turmeric and process until the mixture is fine. Store in an airtight container.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs in half and place in a bowl with the yoghurt and spice mix. Stir to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate chicken for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Thread chicken pieces evenly on to 4 metal skewers, placing a bay leaf at regular intervals. Reserve any yoghurt mix.
  4. Place on a foil-lined baking tray and brush with melted butter. Fan-grill at 200ºC for 15 minutes.
  5. Beat the egg with 2 tablespoons reserved yoghurt mix and brush this on to the kebabs 3 times during the last 5-6 minutes of cooking. Serve kebabs hot on boiled rice with a salad of your choice.

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