Masala Dabba Spice Box

Just a quick post to let you in on a great kitchen tip. Borrowing from our Indian friends… I’m now using a spice tin… or Masala Dabba.  It’s a great way to keep your most used spices handy and fresh. Found in most Indian homes the tins range from 7-12 inches in diameter.  The spices vary depending on region and preference. Some homes will have a few boxes… sorting their spices by powder or seed… spicy or mild. The beauty of it is it’s up to you!

In my spice box I have (L-R) ginger powder, sweet smoked paprika, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, chili powder and in the center, whole cloves. I use these quite regularly and not just in Indian cooking!

I picked this up at World Market (also known as Cost Plus in some areas) for $9.99. But if you have neither store in your town look online. I’ve seen some that come with assorted spices as well. A see-through lid seals the box airtight while not in use. For best results keep stored in a cool, dark area as most spices lose flavor intensity when exposed to prolonged sunlight.

Happy spicing!


Chicken Curry with Coconut Rice

Ladies and gentlemen… for the very first time… I’m about to post a semi-homemade dish on here (*gasp*).  No offense to that Sandra Lee lady…  but it kind of goes against my principles to call something a “recipe” when it all comes from boxes and/or bottles.  Yeah, call me a food snob, I’m okay with it. I’ve learned to own it.

But I love this dish and could easily eat it every week… and I get the same response from everyone I’ve made it for (or maybe I should just say, “prepared” it for?) .   And for that reason alone, it I feels highly unfair to keep it from you all. So, at the risk of compromising my “from scratch” integrity – here goes:

(serves 4)
1 pound uncooked chicken tenderloins (either purchase them already cut, or defy Sandra Lee and cut your own)
1 cup cut okra (fresh is best but you can use frozen if you must – but pay attention to prep notes when using fresh)
1 cup whole green beans – fresh
1 cup sliced orange or red bell pepper – fresh
2 tablespoons Patak’s Hot Curry Paste (pictured – use mild if you are not a fan of spicy food).curry paste
2 cups coconut milk (Trader Joe’s has a light milk that’s excellent!)
2 cups water
2 cups white rice – uncooked
3 bottles Thai Yellow Curry Sauce from Trader Joe’s (Patak makes good one as well, if there’s no TJ’s nearby)

I start with the rice… it can take awhile if not using instant:
For every 1 cup of rice use 1 cup of water and 1 cup of Light Coconut Milk
Bring water and milk to a low boil, then add rice and stir once to mix. Bring rice to a full boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender. Fluff with a fork. It should be loose and not clumpy like sticky rice.

UPDATE: I made this recipe before I owned an Instant Pot. If you own a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, I suggest using it instead. With the IP use half a cup of water and half a cup of coconut milk to one cup of rice and cook on high for three minutes with a natural release which should take seven or eight minutes.

Onto the curry chicken:

  • Cut okra into 3/4 inch dials. If using fresh okra you should toast them in a dry pan for a few minutes before adding to the sauce. They tend to get gummy and mushy otherwise. Toasting them firms the skin and helps them hold up better.
  • Slice bell pepper julienne -style into 2-3 inch long strips.
  • Trim your whole green beans (unless you paid the extra cash and bought them trimmed)
  • If you bought whole boneless chicken breasts, cut them into tenderloin strips.

Empty two of the bottles of curry sauce into a soup pot. Add the veggies and put on a low heat.

In a large saute pan, empty half the remaining bottle and turn to a medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the red curry paste. Add half of your chicken and saute, turning each piece until thoroughly cooked. Go ahead and cut your largest tenderloin open to check if it’s done. Be careful not to overcook or your meat will dry out. Once each piece is done (6-8 minutes depending on size of tenderloin), use tongs and place chicken in soup pot with veggies.  The sauce in your saute pan will have reduced, so add remaining sauce in bottle as well as the remaining tablespoon of curry paste and continue cooking the rest of your chicken. Once all chicken is done and in your soup pot, pour the leftover sauce and bits from your saute pan into the mixture. That adds some amazing yumminess.

Leave your soup pot on a low heat until a slow bubble starts and your veggies are tender (but not mushy).

Your rice should be done by now. For a more refined presentation (as pictured above), take a ramekin or an old butter cup (or something of similar size & shape) and firmly pack it with rice. Flip it upside down on your plate. It should leave a clean solid dome of rice. Drizzle curry sauce over the rice and neatly place a couple of chicken tenderloins and some veggies on top.

For a more rustic presentation, use shallow bowls and scoop a cup of rice with a cup of curry, chicken and veggies on top. It tastes just as good this way!

The Perfect Bite
Of course you want a perfect bite of rice, veggie and chicken together all on your fork. But also make sure you have enough sauce so that you can mix it with whatever leftover rice you have. The curry and rice alone is delicious!

The Perfect Pairing
If you’d like an appetizer for the entree trying pairing it with my Curry Hummus and Naan Bread.Or you can just make the Naan and use it to scoop up the curry goodness. For a beverage, try pairing this with Gnarly Head Zinfandel Old Vine 2007. Lots of plum and berry flavors with a hearty finish. The subtle sweetness will balance well with the savory chicken & veggies, but the strong peppery finish will hold its own against the power of the curry. In my opinion, this wine is best with served with food… its flavors don’t come alive well on their own.

Did You Know?
Okra is native to the Old World tropics (West Africa) and has become established in the wild in some New World tropical areas. It is believed that okra first reached the New World during the days of slave trafficking. The species apparently originated in the Ethiopian Highlands, though the manner of distribution from there is undocumented. Read more here.

Curry Hummus & Naan Bread

Hummus is a popular condiment in the Middle East and in the Far East… and is usually eaten with a some form of flat bread.

But this is not your ordinary hummus… and to quote my friends Mahesh & Parvathi from India… “Deb, you need to get a patent for this!”

I love the flavors of India… rich in spices like curry, cardamom, cumin (Jeera), paprika, coriander and turmeric. So, I wanted to create a hummus that was rich in Indian flavors… rich enough to be eaten just with naan bread on its own… combining spices that provide heat and sweet simultaneously.

Below are the recipes for both my Curry Hummus and homemade Naan. If you’re crunched for time, Trader Joe’s carries Naan bread in both the fresh bread section as well as the frozen food section. Both are quite tasty. But, seriously…. there is nothing like the taste of homemade Naan, fresh out of the oven. Plus, I love watching each bread round puff into a little naan pillow just before settling into its flat bread state. Pure entertainment to a foodie such as I…

Hummus Ingredients

2 12 oz cans chickpeas – drained
3 garlic cloves crushed
2 tbs Tahini (pictured below)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 sweet onion – chopped
3 tsp yellow curry powder or 1 tsp of yellow curry paste (I find this at the International Market – Nashville has a great one in the downtown Farmer’s Market)
1 tsp paprika
4-5 tbs olive oil – divided
1 tablespoon Patak’s Hot Curry Paste (pictured – use mild if you are not a fan of spicy food).
salt & pepper to taste

Bring a saucepan of water to boil – add chickpeas and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic in 1-2 tbs of olive oil until softened. Add cumin, curry powder and hot curry paste, and another 2 tbs of olive oil. Continue to sauté until onions are translucent. Mixture will be yellowish-brown. Blend softened chickpeas and Tahini in food processor, adding onion & garlic mixture until thoroughly blended. Add additional olive oil until desired consistency. Give it a taste and add salt & pepper if necessary.

When mixture is creamy (but not runny, more like the consistency of mashed potatoes)) transfer to serving dish – drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

Naan Ingredients
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain non-dairy yogurt

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the yogurt till the dough is too stiff for a spoon, then knead it in the bowl till it holds together well, adding more flour if necessary.

Turn it out on a floured surface and continue kneading for about 5 minutes till the dough feels smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel, to rest for an hour or longer.

Take the dough out and cut it into 10 equal pieces. Form each into a ball and press the balls flat into round discs.

Heat a large frying pan or griddle, either seasoned cast iron or a good non-stick finish. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Take 1 piece of dough at a time and roll it out on a floured surface till it is about 8-10 inches across and less than 1/4 inch thick. Lay it on the hot griddle and cook it over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. It will puff up in places or all over, and there will be some brown spots on each side as you flip it. Slide a spatula under the naan and transfer it to the oven, directly onto the rack, for a minute or two, just till it finishes puffing up into a balloon and begins to color lightly on top. Remove naan from the oven and brush it lightly with melted vegan butter or olive oil.

Serve the breads hot, fresh from the oven, or let them cool and wrap them up.
To reheat, wrap them in aluminum foil, in packets of 4 or 5 breads and put them in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

The Perfect Bite
Scoop warm Naan bread into the hummus and enjoy! The hummus is also quite tasty on chicken or with raw or roasted veggies. Also, try it as a spread on a burger or sandwich instead of mayo.

The Perfect Pairing
To keep with the Indian theme… try an IPA (Indian Pale Ale). Or try a white blend by Hayman & Hill Interchange. Hailed as a perfect blend to accompany Indian food… thanks to its creamy and fruity aromas that offset the rich spicy flavors of the curry hummus. Enjoy!

Did You Know?
Curry has a multitude of health benefits including aiding in the prevention of Alzheimers Disease.