Updated: Dec 2, 2020
by Carl Clarke from The Whole Chicken (Hardie Grant)
Photography © Robert Billington
Gunpowder seasoning is a southern Indian table seasoning made using various spices and dried pulses. I have no idea why it is called gunpowder, but I guess it’s something to do with the heat from the dried chillies. It’s very versatile and can be sprinkled on many things as a seasoning. To be honest, this recipe bears no
resemblance to the authentic recipe, but I just love the name. My favourite way to use this spice mix is on chips (fries). At my fast food restaurant CHIK’N we use it on our loaded gunpowder fries and top the fries with tamarind chutney and mint chutney. They are incredible and loved by many customers. Here, I have used it to season the chicken wings and finished them off with a crispy curry leaf shizzle. They are delicious and if you are ever having friends round for a drink, then just add some roasted peanuts or cashews to the shizzle recipe and serve as a drinking snack.
2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) jointed chicken wings (ask your butcher to do this for you, or cut them into 3 pieces yourself)... Nigel's wings were provided by Campbell's Meat based in Linlithgow
4 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sea salt
FOR THE GUNPOWDER SHAKE
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (see below)
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 scant tablespoon light soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chaat masala
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
FOR THE CRISPY SHIZZLE
3 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil
handful of curry leaves
2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
1 tablespoon dried chillies, broken up by hand
Brine the chicken wings according to the instructions below (optional).
To make the gunpowder shake, combine the ingredients in a spice grinder and pulse a few times to bring it together. Do not overblend as it will clump if it’s a fine powder.
To cook the wings, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 4).
Mix the baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Place the wings in a large bowl, add the baking powder mixture and, using your hands, toss the chicken until it is coated evenly all over.
Place a roasting rack on top of a roasting tray (pan), then arrange the wings on the rack, side by side, leaving a small gap in between each wing to allow the air to circulate around them.
Cook in the oven on the middle shelf for 30 minutes, then place the tray on the top shelf and increase the oven temperature to 250°C (475°F/gas 9) and cook for another 10–15 minutes until the wings are crispy to the touch.
To make the crispy shizzle, heat the oil in a small frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, then fry the curry leaves, garlic, shallots and dried chillies one at a time, each for 1–3 minutes, until crisp.
Season the cooked wings generously, using about 50–70g (2–21/2 oz) of the shake, then garnish with a handful of the shizzle.
Nigel says: Both the Gunpowder Shake & Crispy Shizzle would work well with fleshy white fish, such as hake, haddock, pollack or cod, & for my veggie version, the Shizzle & Shake would add an extra dimension to chickpeas, cauliflower (florets or a whole cauli), swede, turnips, parsnips & potatoes.
How to brine chicken:
Chicken, especially the breasts, can dry out very quickly during cooking. The brining method is an incredibly simple & effective way of preventing this from happening. The skill is getting the ratio of salt to water right & in judging the amount of time that the meat can stay in the brine before becoming too salty. For a basic brine, I use a 6% salt to water solution, so that’s 60g of table salt to 1 litre of water. Put the salt & water into a large saucepan & bring to the boil, dissolving the salt. Remove from the heat & leave to cool completely in the refrigerator before brining the meat. You need to brine for at least 1hr for boneless chicken & up to 24hrs for bone-in chicken. It is important that you rinse the meat in plenty of cold & running water after the brine, & pat with paper towels to dry completely before cooking, especially if you want crispy skin.
For the Madras Curry Powder:
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cassia bark stick, about 7cm (2¾ in long)
5 whole cloves
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon white poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
To make the Madras powder:
Grind the black peppercorns, cassia, cloves, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, poppy, cumin and fennel seeds in an electric grinder, blender or mortar & pestle, to a fine powder. Stir in the turmeric and the chilli powder.