I have the spring cleaning itch lately, and I’m in the midst of tackling my pantry.
My sister organized a Facebook group earlier this year to go through the clutter busting exercise ”30 Bags in 30 days.” Have you heard about this? You get a box of heavy-duty garbage bags and go through the rooms in your house and fill one bag with items to either donate, recycle, or throw away. It’s curiously addictive, but tackling my pantry might require its own dedicated ”30 Bags” exercise. It’s definitely in the Augean Stables league.
Having a separate place to store foodstuffs, kitchen equipment, and yes, wine, makes me the object of envy amongst my expat friends, but it can be a double-edged sword. Stuff piles up when you are a food blogger and with the current food situation being what it is, I tend to seize any opportunity to stockpile non-perishables. And then there are all of the spices and condiments I’ve inherited from the legion of friends who have left Moscow in the wake of recent events.
As I sifted through everything, a powerful urge for Indian food overcame me. Maybe it was the jar of Sainsbury’s mint chutney one British friend had hand carried over from London, or the package of poppadoms rapidly approaching their sale by date. The urge intensified as I went through my spices, a lot of which had gone stale.
Feeling very guilty, I binned the stale spices, then marshaled all of the jars, scrubbed them out, and ran them through the dishwasher until they were clean, sparkling, and just begging to be refilled with reasonable amounts. Is anything more satisfying than this?
If there is something more satisfying, it’s shopping for spices.
Finding Indian Spices for Chicken Tikka Masala
I like to get mine at the farmers’ markets where they are laid out in rows and sold by the spoonful by Central Asian traders. But if you have a specific craving for Indian food, the best place to shop is at one of the branches of Indian Spices. These shops are located near large shopping centers and are staffed by very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful staff, many of whom speak English. They are a great place to shop for pulses, beans, Ayurvedic products, and Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Mexican specialty foods.
At the Mozhaisky Val branch of Indian Spices, I was able to get authentic quality garam masala and some coconut milk, which pointed the way towards one of my favorite Indian dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala. Since I’ve been on something of a slow cooker binge of late, I decided to play around the ”low and slow” principle and use bone-in chicken thighs, which don’t dry out as much as the breasts.
The result is a keeper — a perfect ”handsfree” dish that allows plenty of free time to finish clutter busting. Even the Augean Stables.
Mayakovskaya Masala – Chicken Tikka Masala
700 grams (1-1/2 pounds) of bone-in chicken thighs
500 ml (2 cups) of plain yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk
1 tsp of cinnamon
30 ml (2 Tbl) of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, mashed
30 ml (2 Tbl) of paprika
1 small pinch of white peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced
45 ml (3 Tbl) of garam masala* (recipe follows if you need to make it from scratch).
800 ml (3 cups) of tomatoes, tinned or fresh (if fresh, skinned and de-seeded and roughly chopped
1 tin of coconut milk
30 ml (2 Tbl) of tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
100 ml (1/2-cup) heavy cream
1 bunch of fresh cilantro and mint, chopped as garnish
2 limes, quartered for garnish
1 Tbl of cumin seeds
1-1/2 tsp of coriander seeds
1-1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons of peppercorns
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2-tsp of cloves
1/2-tsp of ground nutmeg
Combine the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and peppercorns in a skillet and toast for 1-2 minutes, taking care that they don’t burn. Crush them together in with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder then add the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and grind until everything is combined. Store in a clean jar with a tight lid for up to 2 months.
1. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the paprika, and 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, the white peppercorns, cinnamon, and a generous pinch of salt into the yogurt.
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.
Try some other “low and slow” recipes, while you are here!
Stick around and enjoy some non-culinary stories and tales from life in the world’s largest country. Like these:
Are you an Indian food fan? Love Chicken Tikka Masala or Rogan Josh? Which Indian restaurants in Moscow or your city get your thumbs up? I’d love to know more, so please weigh in by hitting the comment button below.
If you have a favorite recipe you are struggling with in Moscow, let me know! I’ll help you source the ingredients and tweak the recipe to Moscow’s realities.