By Cat, Jan 2018 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Living here in NW Montana, there are not many opportunities to enjoy East-Indian cuisine. I learned to love this food when I lived in Portland, Oregon – especially naan bread and spicy dishes like this one, made with dried fruit. The spices commonly used in India provide many health benefits and are at the base of Ayurvedic medicine.
I found this recipe in our Daily Inter Lake newspaper, but it was originally included in “Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen,” by Madhur Jaffrey, and reprinted in the St. Louis Dispatch (1) on Jan 10, 2018. I’ve adapted it to include my health and nutrition preferences.
After my first test (see testing below), I want to find a different way to cook this; I love the combo of yogurt and spices, but their unique flavor combo is pretty much lost after cooking as in the original recipe.
Indian-style stove-top chicken with dried fruit
Most Asian cuisines prefer the dark meat of chickens – drumsticks, thighs and wings – rather than the breasts; this recipe is no exception. Use only pasture-raised, preferably local chicken meat for the best nutritional benefits. Where I live, Hutterite chickens are especially good.
Another thing about Asian food is that most spices are ground right before using (unless using whole), for the best flavor and nutritional content. Of course, you can use already ground spices but the flavor is not as amazing. I use my REVEL spice grinder, as pictured, left (photo from Amazon).
One of the spices in the “ground mix” is fresh cilantro, which resembles flat Italian parsley in look when fresh, but not in flavor. Many grocery stores/markets now sell fresh cilantro, which you can mince and mix with the ground spices. There is no good substitute for the flavor, but for a slightly different but interesting flavor, you can use fresh basil. Or for a similar look, you can use flat Italian parsley, but you may want to add a bit of honey.
This recipe also uses some whole spices (cardamom pods, cloves, and stick cinnamon). Cardamon seeds are small and round, but are arranged together in an oblong bunch inside a softer edible pod which protects the flavor of the seeds. This recipe uses the whole pod (with seeds inside). I use “green cardamom pods.”
The original recipe called for “vegetable oil” to cook the chicken, but most vegetable oils are GMO and rancid in the bottle (because they are pressed from the seeds by very high pressure which produces heat that rancidifies the oil). Instead, avocado oil is best if you heat it above 350F; otherwise coconut oil, lard, duck or goose fat can be used; see Fats and Oils: Smoke Point and/or Good Fats for Cooking for more.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Ingredients & Equipment
Half-recipe amounts are in parenthesis
- 3½ (1½ – 1¾) pounds chicken pieces; dark meat is best, brined
- Unrefined sea salt (if you don’t brine the chicken)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 (½) cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
- Ground spice mix:
- ½ (¼) tsp unrefined sea salt
- 1 (½) tsp ground cumin
- 1 (½) tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp (pinch) cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 4 (2) Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
- 4 Tbsp lard, duck or goose fat, coconut oil, or avocado oil
- Whole spice mix:
- 8 (4) cardamom pods
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- 2½ Tbsp blanched slivered almonds (sprouted almonds are best)
- 2½ Tbsp golden raisins OR mix of raisins, dried apricots and/or cherries or blueberries
- glass or ceramic bowl for brining
- small bowl (for yogurt and spice mix)
- cast iron chicken frier or wide skillet
- large bowl (to hold browned chicken pieces)
- Prep: Brine chicken pieces 30 min to 1 hour (optional but recommended). Then rinse and pat dry, and season with pepper. If you don’t brine the chicken, season with ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt as well as pepper.
- Beat yogurt in a bowl and beat it lightly until smooth and creamy. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, some black pepper, the cumin, coriander, cayenne and cilantro. Mix and set aside.
- Cook: Heat the lard/oil in a chicken frier or skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves. Stir once and add as many chicken pieces as the pan will hold easily in a single layer. Brown the chicken on both sides and set aside in a large bowl. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces and remove to the bowl.
- Don’t clean the skillet, but add more oil if needed, and heat. Add almonds and raisins or raisin/dried fruit mix, and stir quickly. The almonds should turn golden, and the raisins should plump up — this should happen very fast.
- Return chicken and its accumulated juices back into the pan. Add the seasoned yogurt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes (longer if the pieces of chicken are large), stirring once or twice.
- Remove cover, turn the heat up a bit, and reduce the sauce until it is thick and just clings to the chicken pieces, turning the chicken pieces over gently as you do so. Remove large whole spices before serving.
- Serve: Steamed basmati rice (white or brown) is best with this dish, but you could also use wild rice.
6/3/19: Made half recipe as written with 4 thighs, except used basil and parsley instead of cilantro, and used mixed dried fruits with a bit of Zante currants. Cooked in my saucier rather than cast iron chicken fryer, which was a mistake because the chicken stuck to the saucier. the cardamom pods never opened, so I cut them open before adding the yogurt/spice mix and returned seeds and pods to the pan. During the sauce-reduction step, I turned the pieces over; the pieces were lightly coated with the a nice, fairly thin dark copper-colored sauce, and surrounded by a lot of oil, perhaps because the chicken skin was quite fatty in addition to the coconut oil. Served with wild rice, beet and braised kale. Result: It was good but nothing special. I like the idea of the yogurt and spices, but want to find a different way to cook the dish.
- Chicken with Dried Fruit recipe: stltoday.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/recipes/recipe-chicken-with-dried-fruit/article_a31b7cfc-cbdf-5229-9bcd-23f7d17e8056.html
- Article: India food: Why is it so incredibly good? (stltoday.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/indian-food-why-is-it-so-incredibly-good/article_3f4237b1-fb0c-5b55-8b1a-6b160b2dcede.html)