Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Tandoor ~ The Great Indian Barbeque Cookbook Review, Poem and Recipe

Cookbook by Ranjit Rai

Seattle’s public library system has the biggest collection of cookbooks I have ever seen, and it covers a gamut of traditional and contemporary cuisines. Whenever all-day rain is in the forecast, I pack up a bag and hike to the library to spend the day. The library is spacious, vibrant, well-lit, and equipped with WiFi system. We can either browse through the bookshelves or sit in a corner and surf away on laptops. Stepping inside the library is my way of shutting out the gloom and grayness of winter, so I go.

One such day last week, I was in the cookbooks aisle, my usual hangout place at the library. Flipping the pages of various cookbooks, trying to decide which deserved the 10-minute trek back home. I usually place cookbooks into two categories. Books that are worthy of the paper they are printed on and books that would make even the docile trees of the rainforests cry. After all the sacrifice made of these gentle giants in the name of nourishing the human mind, the trash printed in the name of food and sustenance would make any decent person weep with disgust. We have to pulp the green to mint the green, I know that, but some cookbooks are truly a violation of everything that the rainforests stand for.

But I digress. So here I was in the pursuit of cookbooks worthy of my energy. The Seattle public library did not disappoint me. I found one that made me stop looking further. The book was titled “Tandoor - The Great Indian Barbeque”. It is not often that one finds a cookbook dedicated to a cooking technique as ancient as the 5000 years old tradition of tandoori. I had to pick it up. What a wonderful use of my time it was to read that book! “Tandoor” is written by Ranjit Rai of New Delhi. He had diligently detailed a manuscript on tandoor cooking, but had passed away before it could be published. His daughter and his best friend together edited and completed the publication of the book.

I can truly say that this cookbook is like the Bhagavad Gita for connoisseurs and lovers of fine cooking. Everything one would ever want to know about tandoor, the kartha, karma, kriya are described in detail. The first part of the book is dedicated to the history and different types of tandoor. Useful tips and tricks - how to construct a tandoor in your backyard, and how to adapt tandoor-style cooking to an apartment kitchen - are recited in eye-opening detail with captivating pictures. The second part of the book is about the karma, the basic work and preparation needed for tandoor cooking. Different types of tenderizers, marinades and masala powders that add special touch to tandoori dishes - what, how and why - are narrated with scientific explanations. Part three includes tandoor recipes for poultry, lamb, fish, vegetables, and breads. The book has a total of 105 recipes and each recipe is accompanied by one or two photographs of either the preparation stages or the finished product. Classic crowd-pleasers such as tandoori chicken, cocktail kababs, masala chops, tandoori jhinga, and paneer tikka along with kababs and tandoori rotis - you will find them all in this book. In spite of coming from a family with non-vegetarian food traditions, I have consciously avoided meat all these years. But even I cannot resist a masala tikka if it is cooked and served in the manner described in this book. That tempting!

Whether you are a culinary enthusiast or simply browse cookbooks as a pastime, if you ever come across this book in a bookshop or at your local library, please stop and pick it up. Mr. Ranjit Rai’s meticulousness and passion will leave you awestruck, as it did me. What a wonderful tribute to the timeless tradition of tandoor cooking! Well done! My vinamra namaskar to the father and daughter team.


Ode To The Tandoor ~ By Ranjit Rai
(excerpt from “Tandoor”)

Fired from below Ranjit Rai (1923 - 1993)
And cascading hear from above
Made from mother earth
By gently hands of women in love
Charging the clay with strength
Thou wondrous oven
Fail-safe cooker of goodness and health

From Unknown time
Through millenniums you serve
Now underground now from above
‘Big’, aromatic, baking and roasting
Accepting grain, meat and dove
The chicken brought you fame
And now on every lip is your name

You sit burning for others
Calling bring your meal ‘bread and dough’
And stir around me ‘timber’
Warm yourself a moment
The day’s work is done
Pay homage to the world’s greatest preserver.

Sri Ranjit Rai (1923-1993)


Hare Chane ki Seekh (Green Chickpea Kababs)
Recipe from “Tandoor”, page: 229

Like the author’s family, we too grew up with the tradition of indulging in green chickpeas (hare chane) during season. Like fresh peas of spring, green chickpeas taste wonderfully sweet with the delicate, earthy scent of the motherland. Fresh foods like these belong to a special category and the associated memories always make them irresistibly spectacular to me.

Seekhs/kababs prepared from fresh chickpeas, without a doubt are a great tandoori snack item. So here is a recipe from the “Tandoor” cookbook, adapted to my apartment’s electric-powered oven.

Fresh Chickpeas (Hare Chana, Cholia)
Fresh Chickpeas (Hare Chana, Cholia)

Ingredients and Method:
(for 7 or 8 medium sized kababs)

2 cups green chickpeas (hare chane, cholia)
1 small red onion or 2 shallots - finely chopped
1 teaspoon - cumin and quarter teaspoon - salt
1 tablespoon - peanut oil/ghee
2 tablespoons - gram flour/besan (acts as binding agent)
Half cup hung-yogurt (hang yogurt in a thin cotton cloth overnight to drain water)
6 green chillies, 4 curry leaves, 2 garlic, 1-inch ginger, 1 tablespoon grated coconut and pinch of salt - grind them together to smooth consistency in a spice grinder or in a mortar with pestle

Skewers - 3
side dish - a cup of yogurt and grilled baby onions

Hung-Yogurt, Green Chilli-Ginger Paste, Shallots
Hung-Yogurt (Yogurt Cheese), Green Chilli-Ginger Paste, Shallots

In a wide skillet, heat oil/ghee. Add and toast cumin first . Then add and saute onions plus green chilli-ginger paste. When onions are pale red, add green chickpeas. Mix. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the chickpeas soften a bit. (Like fresh green peas, green chickpeas cook fast.)

Add hung-yogurt and salt to taste. Mix and cook on low heat, until water evaporates from yogurt. With the back of the wide, slotted spoon, mash the whole thing to coarsely smooth consistency. Sprinkle besan flour and mix. Let cool.

Mashing the Cooked Chickpea-Spice Mixture
Mashing the Cooked Chickpea-Chilli Saute

Oil and wipe the skewers. Shape the mashed chickpeas into chilli shape directly onto the skewers. Apply gentle pressure while shaping the kababs. Place skewer on a baking pan.

Chickpea Kababs Ready for Grilling
Chickpea Kababs Ready for Grilling in Oven

Once ready, place the pan in oven and broil, each side for about 4 to 5 minutes. Using a fork and fingers, carefully turn each kabab to opposite side for uniform cooking and broil to pale gold color.

Grilled (Oven-Broiled) Golden Chickpea Kababs

Serve hot with a cup of yogurt and some grilled pearl onions/small shallots.

Hare Chane ki Seekh (Green Chickpeas Kababs) with Yogurt and Grilled Onions
My Entry to “Saffron, White and Green” Event at Puja’s My Creative Ideas.

Book Cover, Ranjit Rai photo and “Ode to the Tandoor” poem is taken from “Tandoor” cookbook (Copyright:Anuradha Ravindranath) for review purpose.
Thanks V!
Available at : Amazon, Powell’,
Recommend this book to your local libraries.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Yogurt, Hara Chana(Green Chickpeas), Reviews: Cookbooks (Monday January 22, 2007 at 2:03 pm- permalink)

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31 comments for Tandoor ~ The Great Indian Barbeque Cookbook Review, Poem and Recipe »

  1. wow Indira, you’ve outdone yourself! nice article and lovely pictures to go with the lovely recipe. I found fresh green chana in a mexican produce store last week. They are still lying unshelled in my fridge. This recipe seems like a perfect way to enjoy them.


    Comment by Saffron — January 22, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  2. Love your book reviews.
    Each of your review(s) is a fitting tribute to the authors…. I admire your efforts.
    Every presentation of yours is a pleasure to read ….. Great Job !!


    Comment by Shobha — January 22, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  3. You’ve wowed us in many different ways! Reviewing cookbooks is such a neat idea, and I am sure it’s going to be an additional treat for your readers! I have always enjoyed reviewing children’s books related to India, as you already know from my blog. Do check my recent one on “The Road to Mumbai” by Ruth Jeyaveeran. The book is lot of fun for little ones - ( 4 to 8 yr olds)

    You have such a great sense of humor - “cookbooks that will make even the docile trees of the rainforests cry” - hilarious! :-)

    Comment by desimom — January 22, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  4. Indira… thank you for showing pictures of the elaborate procedure of grilling using the skewers. I have been wanting to try my hand at grilling food in the oven but was not sure about how to go about it. Now I am encourgaed to try out some grilling in my oven :)

    Will look forward to more tandoori recipes from you.


    Comment by Sonia — January 22, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  5. wow..sounds like a great book…you know, I was in “Chapters” today ( the equivalent of Barnes and Noble here in Canada) and I too, was browsing the cookbooks, not ONE grabbed my attention…sure the pictures were okay,but that’s it. It just seemed like someone who had way too much time on their hands just decided to publish a book and slapped an Indian looking name on it..I was so disappointed, I just left it at that.

    Thanks for your review though, keep on bringing them to the readers. My library is kind enough to get any books from the Motherland..err…Toronto to me at my request.

    Comment by Trupti — January 22, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  6. I used to leaf through this book at the local library, and it is indeed a marvelous treatise on the ancient art of tandoori cooking. It is a pleasure to read it from cover to cover, and I have made a few recipes from it (the latest one being paneer tikka.) I finally found a copy at a small secondhand bookshop, and I cherish it. is a neat way to locate various books, especially if one wishes to go beyond and other huge booksellers.

    Looking forward to more book reviews! :)

    Comment by Victoria — January 22, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  7. Fantastic article. fantastic recipe. Am going to find that book asap. I am a great fan of barbeques…Thank you so much!

    Comment by madhuli — January 22, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  8. Hi indira,
    very nice recipe and looks delicious. Seems to be very handy.Thanks for sharing it. Here in bay area , i find some indian books but not much as u mentioned. Ur lucky. even My hangout place in the library is cook section:-)

    Comment by meena kandlakuti — January 22, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  9. This is marvellous, Indira! I simply loved the kababs!! The last picture is mouth-watering!

    Comment by Deepu — January 22, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

  10. Thanks Indira for letting us know of this very good coobook.This is the next cookbook I have to buy.Indira having never bught anything online,I would want to ask you if anyone can buy from your amazon store or is it just for guys in the US?

    Comment by sumitha — January 23, 2007 @ 1:46 am

  11. Isn’t it great when you discover a really great cookbook? Diving into it is like entering another world. Although Bengali food is perhaps not my favorite, one of my favorite books is Chitra Banerji’s, “Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals” as it is wonderful about putting the food in a cultural context.

    I will definitely try to find this book - thanks for the rec!

    Comment by Diane — January 23, 2007 @ 6:00 am

  12. hello
    For some time I have been using your website as my reference whenever I had to throw a dinner for friends and I truly admire your passion for cooking and your eye for detail.The recipes that you have are very much doable and makes me want to try it out. I have recommended your website to all my friends and family who range from novice to the experienced and they all love it too. My kids enjoyed the pictures of Kittaya too. keep up the good work.

    Comment by Bindu — January 23, 2007 @ 7:28 am

  13. I am going to try this one for the Bowl party. Such a simple but delicious recipe. Thank you.

    Comment by Sakshi — January 23, 2007 @ 7:54 am

  14. Dear Indira,

    I frequent your website very often, as the previous writer has put it, you do what ever you do with a lot of devotion. I have copied your recipes at home for dinner and the dals, noodles chutneys have all been wonderful hits.
    I see a slight reduction in your usual high spirits lately. When ever we endeavor to do something, always obstacles will fall in our paths. Keep up the good work Indira and don’t mind all these chota chota ant bites.
    NOw a days when ever I make curries or kootu (dal’s) I add a fist ful of methi saag along with it, makes a lovely and fragrant addition, full of nutrition also. In your split pea recipe, for the folks with the phobia of the tomato spinach combo, may be methi could be used as a substitute.
    All best wishes to you and your husband,

    Comment by Mohanangi — January 23, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  15. Wow.. Indira. tandoor recipe at home. Sounds fantastic. Thanks for a great book review and the recipe, I’m going to look for it in my library. Do you think I can replace green chana with white chana.. Thank you.

    Comment by Pavani — January 23, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  16. Indira,

    I have been trying out your Indian recipes for a little bit, and must say how happy we ( my husband and I are ). We used to live in Andhra Pradesh and had the good fortune of being introduced to the many forms of dal/pappu our friends made. Our cook used to make a dal/pappu with starfruit. Mine is such a disaster each time I make it . Any suggestions. The fruit seems to be in the stores.

    Comment by Elizabeth Mathulla — January 23, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  17. any recipes for starfruit

    Comment by Elizabeth Mathulla — January 23, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  18. wow indira,

    what a great recipe. Definitely going to try it…


    Comment by Madhavi — January 23, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  19. WOW!!!! Perfect looking Kebabs!!!! And such a novelty!!!! Never heard of them being made by green chana!! :)
    The books seems to be interesting!!!

    Comment by Coffee — January 24, 2007 @ 12:24 am

  20. Hi Indira
    This comment is totally unrelated to the post here. But I just wanted to mention that I tried your palak panner recipe ditto and it came out very well. I got good compliments from my family ! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes :-)

    Comment by Ranjani — January 24, 2007 @ 1:52 am

  21. Nice dish Indira! I love reading cook book review also :) . picture of Green chick peas is looking so fresh that one would tempt to grab it from screen :D .
    I have nice theme for this week, just wanted to inform you about this ,as I wish to celebrate our Republic Day with as many indian friends as possible from the blog world around here.

    Comment by Pooja — January 24, 2007 @ 3:26 am

  22. “But I digress.”

    Indira, please digress more. It makes for very enjoyable reading.

    Comment by Terri — January 24, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  23. Hi Indira,
    thanks for the cookbook info. chickpeas kababs look wonderful and the pics are excellent as usual. thanks

    Comment by prema — January 24, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

  24. Thanks very much for your kind and encouraging words.

    Desimom: Congratulations on your new food blog. Finally! Big Yay for you.:)

    Thanks for the tip, Victoria.

    Hi Sumitha: I think Amazon accepts Europe customers also.

    Hi Mohana: My next split pea recipe is going to be yours - splitpea-methi stew.:) Thanks for the methi tip.

    Pavani: I guess you can, but taste, I don’t think it will be the same. There are two other kabab recipes in Tandoor cookbook -fresh green peas and fresh corn. Same recipe, replace chickpeas with these two.

    Hi Ranjani: I am glad to hear that you tried and liked the palak recipe and thanks for letting me know.

    Hi Pooja, thanks for the invitation. I will send this chickpea entry for your event. Green color suits the theme.

    Comment by Indira — January 24, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  25. Hi Indira,
    I tried this recipe over the weekend and really liked it. Will get a copy of the book - thanks much for the review.
    I’m a frequent visitor to your blog though its my first time posting. Up until I found your site - I used to stick to a small collection of tried-n-tested recipes and rarely ventured beyond. When I first visited your blog- I loved the simplicity in your recipes and dared to try them out. Needless to say the results were all very good. Now I look forward to trying new recipes and actually started to enjoy cooking! No recipe book ever did that for me! Thanks for being the inspiration to me and to many others!

    Comment by arao — February 5, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  26. Hi Indira, thanks for this wonderful recipe. We made this for our small superbowl party and it was great. It was spicy, yummy and healthy. What more could you ask for from a snack, right?

    Comment by Gini — February 6, 2007 @ 7:05 am

  27. Indira, where can I find green Chana in US? I live in Bay area.

    Comment by Sreedevi — March 5, 2007 @ 7:04 am

  28. The recipe and images just look delicious! Can we simply use plain green peas in place of cholia if its unavailable?

    Comment by Cook — May 11, 2007 @ 12:43 am

  29. I can’t thank you enough for sharing with everyone soo much of useful information in this blog of yours!!! You’re such a great source of inspiration to budding cooks like me. Your innovative recipes, superb pictures and these cook-book reviews are everything a learner needs! Please continue to do the great work! :)


    Comment by Divya — October 26, 2011 @ 7:13 am

  30. please mail me defrent and laziz kabab recipys…

    Comment by kapil dev — January 7, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  31. It was good food. Please include more food.

    Comment by نرم افزار CRM — October 9, 2020 @ 6:58 am

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