“This Parsee chicken dish will please everyone,” says Cyrus Todiwala, one half of The Incredible Spice Men and the chef behind Café Spice Namasté in London. “It’s not too hot, and it signifies friendship. We serve this at happy occasions, weddings and celebrations. You shouldn’t have too much trouble cooking it, so it makes the perfect Sunday lunch. But it won’t last long!”
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins
For the masala
6-8 dried red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2.5cm (1in) piece of cinnamon stick
4-5 green cardamom pods, split
For the chicken
200g (7oz) dried apricots (unbleached and organic)
250ml (8fl oz) hot water
4 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
2 x 2.5cm (1in) pieces of cinnamon stick
2 onions, chopped
1 heaped tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4-6 medium-sized legs of chicken, either kept whole or cut in half, skin on
Salt to taste
4 tomatoes, chopped
1-2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Sali (crisp straw potatoes), heated briefly in the oven
Bread, chapatis or boiled rice
Grind the masala ingredients in a clean coffee grinder, small food processor, mortar with a pestle or in a small bowl with the end of a rolling pin. Set aside.
Soak the apricots in the water for two to three hours (or overnight) until soft and swollen. If you are using Indian apricots, which are less tart, you may like to remove their stones, but they may lose their texture while cooking.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan until hazy and add the cinnamon sticks. When they have absorbed some of the oil and puffed a bit – about one minute – add the onions and brown slowly.
Add the ginger and garlic and the prepared masala and sauté well until the oil, which has been absorbed, is released slowly around the edges of the onions.
Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the chicken legs separately for 4–5 minutes on each side until well browned and add to the cooking sauce.
Add a little salt, the chopped tomatoes and the soaked apricots and any soaking water, mix well, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Do not keep the heat high. If the sauce is too thin, uncover and cook for a few minutes until rich and thick but take care not to overcook the chicken. If necessary, remove the chicken before boiling the sauce rapidly to thicken and reduce, then return the chicken to the pan.
Stir in the chopped coriander, taste and re-season if necessary. Sprinkle with the straw potatoes and serve with bread, chapatis or boiled rice.
‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’, by Cyrus Todiwala, is published by Hardie Grant (£25)