A true icon of Indian cuisine, the tandoor is part barbecue, part oven and is used to cook everything from pillowy naan breads to beautifully smoky and charred kebabs. While they might be hard to come across in the UK outside of professional kitchens, the history behind the cooking technique is fascinating and very similar results can be achieved in a conventional oven.
Alfred Prasad certainly knows his way around a tandoor, and loves the significance it had in shaping northern India’s cuisine. ‘Historically this style of cooking was brought to India by the Moghuls – the word kebab itself is actually Turkish and came from the Middle East,’ he explains. ‘It made its way into northern India and soon most villages had a communal tandoor. Everyone would make the dough for their bread and take it to this communal tandoor, sitting around in the evening chatting as it cooked. The tandoor is quite fuel hungry, so to have one in each household would have been quite a waste. The coals never really go out – overnight it would just be embers and perhaps cool down to 140°C, but in the morning it would just be topped up again.’
We invited Alfred to Le Cordon Bleu to host a masterclass on using the tandoor, showing bloggers and journalists why it’s such an incredible – and healthy – way to cook. ‘We’re cooking monkfish in a dairy-free marinade, using herbs and spices such as coriander, mint, lime leaf, turmeric, chilli and ginger,’ he says. ‘Most tandoor marinades are yoghurt- or cream-based so it doesn’t appeal to those with an aversion to lactose or dairy, so when I realised food intolerances were becoming more prominent it was important for me to start addressing that.’