I am so excited that I finally have a masala dabba of my own! A gift from a friend of ours from India. Thank you, Anju!
A masala dabba is a stainless steel spice round box that contains most of the spices you would use for preparing a meal. I’ve read that they can be passed down from generation to generation, considered family heirlooms. Typically, they would contain spices that are used in your style of cooking. I’ve seen many variations on which spices to include. And I noticed that I already use many of those spices in Mexican cooking! As I cook using it, my food might develop more of an Indian flair. That sounds delicious to me.
Anju also gave us a cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. The author tells us these are recipes that she cooks regularly at home and I’ve already identified many that I want to try.
I wanted to inaugurate my new masala dabba by using a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook and I chose this one. I may have mentioned this in another post, but I love apricots. We had an apricot tree at our house in California and I was a regular visitor.
Chickens with Apricots is a recipe from the Parsi community of India. Madhur Jaffrey says this about the community: “When the Parsis fled Iran in the tenth century, they settled on India’s west coast, where they managed to preserve not only their religious traditions – they are Zoroastrians – but many of their culinary traditions as well.”
I made a few changes to the recipe, but I think I kept all of the flavor. I used boneless chicken breast and chicken thighs instead of a full cut up chicken as she suggests. I also added the Madeira wine she mentions that a friend of hers uses when making this dish. And instead of making my own crispy potato straws, I bought shoestring potato chips.
And it was all delicious!
Apricots and Chicken
2 – 2 ½ pounds chicken (a combination of boneless chicken breast and boneless chicken thighs cut into 2 cubes)
Salt and pepper
12 – 14 dried apricots, preferably Turkish dried apricots
3 tablespoons olive oil
Two cinnamon sticks (2 inches each)
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 medium white or yellow onions, thinly sliced into half rings
3 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1 – 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup Madeira wine
Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with ½ teaspoon and very generous amounts of black pepper. Set aside.
Put the apricots in a small pan with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Make sure the apricots are still slightly firm, not mushy. Remove from the heat.
Add two tablespoons of oil to a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cinnamon and cumin seeds and stir. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Remove to a pan.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil along with the onion and cook until slightly brown.
Add the ginger, stir and add the tomato paste.
Stir, cook for a few minutes and add the reserved chicken. Add 1½ cups water along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, lower heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
Remove the cover, add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cook on high heat until the sauce thickens (about 5-8 minutes).
Add the Madeira wine and stir. Remove the pan from the stove and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve alongside basmati rice or topped with the fried potato sticks.
I found a variation of the recipe in Saveur magazine.