Elizabeth Makes Masala

Masala means spice, or many spices combined together which are used in South Eastern and Indian recipes. Masala is loosely translated as “spice” and although there are many varieties and preferences, masala is typically made up of 5-7 spices. The definition of masala is a spice mixture that has been ground into a powder or paste used for cooking Indian food, or a dish flavored with this powder. Garam masala is a spice blend widely used in Indian cuisine, from curries and lentil dishes to soups. Whole spices of cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods are toasted in a pan to release their aromatic flavors, then ground to a powder. There are many types of masalas, found all throughout the Southeast Asian countries. This particular masala is a North Indian version.

My friend Elizabeth has been bitten by the cooking bug. She has a huge bucket list of things she wants to learn to make, and rather than whittling them down, her list just keeps growing. And that’s perfectly OK by me. I am more than happy to show her, and everyone else who is interested, how to make them. Her latest request was to learn how to make masala, but she couldn’t decide if she wanted chicken or shrimp, so we added both. I mixed the spices together and coated the chicken and the shrimp with them, then let her do the rest, with only some guidance from me.

Chicken and Shrimp Masala

1-1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cut into thin strips

3/4 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 tsp ground corinader

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

1 onion, sliced very thin

1/3 each, red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper

2 cups tomatoes, medium dice

1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1 1 /2 TBSP minced ginger

olive oil or vegetable oil for cooking

1 cup water

1 TBSP each fresh mint and fresh cilantro, chopped

toasted coconut, optional for topping

Mix all the dried ground spices together, then coat the chicken and shrimp with the spice mixture, or the “masala”.

Elizabeth is hard at work cutting all the vegetables. She is being assisted by the one and and only Vinnie.

Get the oil nice and hot, and saute the vegetables, garlic and ginger, all except the tomatoes.

Once the vegetables are cooked, yet have still just a bit of crunch left to them, remove them and set them aside.

Next comes the shrimp. Cook them in the same pan, adding more oil if necessary, until they are done.

When the shrimp is done, add it to the vegetables and cook the chicken until it is done.

When the chicken is cooked, re-add the shrimp and the vegetables, as well as the tomatoes and the water. Mix everything together well. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to cook for about 30 more minutes, making sure to stir occasionally.

Taking it all in.

Once the masala was cooked, we served it over some lemon rice, with some heated naan bread on the side. I chose a light, effervescent chardonnay to go with meal. The light citrusy taste and the hint of bubbles went very well with the spiciness of the dish. I topped the dish with some chopped mint, cilantro and toasted coconut before serving.

For dessert, I went to one of our local and favorite Indian restaurants, The Jewell of India, and picked up some carrot pudding and gulab jamun, or honey balls as I like to call them. In between enjoying our delicious dinner and ending on a sweet note, we played a few friendly rounds of Farkle. Larry won a couple of rounds, Elizabeth won 3 rounds, and sadly, I lost them all. Oh well. We all had a good, fun evening, and that is really all that counts.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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