Friday, 18 January 2013

Cilantro Masala for chicken or fish

This green cilantro masala is full of robust, Goan flavours.  It’s quick and easy, and now that I’m back at home, the fragrance of it took me right back to Lourdina’s kitchen in Goa.  Although she used it for a chicken dish, I went with what I had on hand, cod fillets.  This masala uses enough cilantro to qualify the dish as half vegetable, so it’s healthy too!
This much is a 'bunch' of cilantro

8 cloves (Lourdina went with 10)
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 cinnamon stick
20 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons coconut vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 fresh green chillies
10 garlic cloves, unpeeled!

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, (reserve about a half cup)

Enough chicken or cod fillets to serve four people
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon ghee

2 red onions, finely diced

Grind the spices first.  If your blender can pulverize them, fine.  I used my spice grinder, then added the spices to the blender after the masala was well mixed. 
My blender argues with tough elements, and cilantro stems want to wind themselves into the blades.  To prevent that from happening, I add the liquids first, then the sugar, chillies and garlic.  If you can't find coconut vinegar, use the regular white vinegar.
Buy coconut vinegar at a Filipino store.
If you’re startled by the unpeeled garlic, rest assured that Lourdina says it increases the flavour.  I expected to be picking the papery skin out of my teeth, but it disappeared in the blender action. 
Reserve a half cup of chopped cilantro for later, but add the rest of it to the blender. Blend long enough to create a smooth paste, about five minutes in my case. 
Pour the masala paste over the chicken or fish, and set aside to marinate a few hours.

When it’s time to cook, pour the oil into a large pan.  Canola is being touted as fabulously healthy these days, and it’s a local product, so I’m experimenting with it more and more. 

But it seems flavourless to me, so I like to blend it with my favourite vice—ghee.  Once the oils are sizzling, add the finely diced onion. 
On medium heat, cook till the onion is translucent, and browning at the edges.  Add the chicken or fish, with all the masala, and cook till the meat is done.  Stir often. 
The masala will be bright green and watery at first, but as the meat cooks, it will thicken and turn a brownish colour.  When you’re close to serving, add the reserved chopped cilantro, stir and cook for another couple of minutes. 
I served this with basmati rice and pinto beans flavoured with Tikki masala, something you will be hearing about soon.

Cooking this back in my Canadian kitchen brought back the flavours of Goa to me, and got me feeling rather nostalgic already.  Expect to see a few more Goan recipes before I explain the Tikki masala!  Thanks again to Lourdina for showing me how to prepare this dish!

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