New Year festivities have always revolved around food for Parsis, says Kainaz Contractor, chef and owner of Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu, a restaurant that has been rapidly garnering praise (and awards) in less than a year since it opened in Delhi. Jamshedji Navroze that falls on Monday, March 21, is the first of the two new year days (the second is in August) that Parsis celebrates. Two new year holidays only means more food. Says Contractor, a Parsi, who moved from Mumbai to Delhi, “Navroze has always been an excuse to go out for a meal or order in.”
This is somewhat how the day would pan out, recalls Contractor: A visit to the agiary or the Parsi fire temple followed by a feast at home, then a nap followed by a family outing to watch a Parsi play and finally, a meal at a Chinese restaurant. “One meal would be traditional Parsi food and one had to be either a Chinese takeaway or at a Chinese restaurant. There would be dhan dar patio (dal, rice and either a prawn or fish curry cooked in a sweet and sour tomato gravy) for either lunch or dinner.”
For dessert, Contractor remembers her paternal grandmother made the Sev and Mittu Dahi made of roasted vermicelli cooked in rose water and mixed with sweetened curd, nutmeg and cardamom. Says the chef, “She was the best cook in my family, hands down.” And of course, no Parsi meal could wind up without kulfi from Parsi Dairy.
At her own restaurant on Aurobindo Marg in Delhi, Contractor follows several traditional recipes passed down by her grandmother. This one is for a decadent version of the chicken gravy served with fried potato straws or Salli Murghi to which she makes with apricots. She says, “The jardaloos (dried apricots) give the dish a Persian touch and are a nice sweet addition to the mildly-spiced dish.”
Jardaloo murghi ma salli
Preparation time: 45 minutes | Serves: 8
½ cup – Oil
4 – Onions finely chopped
2 tsp – Ginger-garlic paste
1.5 kg – Chicken cut into pieces
300 ml – Fresh tomato purée
½ tsp – Turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp – Chilli powder
3/4 tsp – Garam masala
2 ½ cups – Water 2 1/2 cups
3 tbsp – Sugarcane vinegar (try Kolah’s available at speciality Parsi stores)
1 tsp – Sugar
16 – Jardaloo (dried apricots), soaked for 2 hours in warm water and then lightly browned in ghee
150g – Salli (potato straws), to serve
Salt to taste
16 – Chapatis to serve
*In a broad pan big enough to hold the chicken pieces, heat oil and fry the onions until light brown.
*Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute.
*Add the chicken and fry for a further 5-7 minutes.
*Stir in the tomato purée, salt, turmeric and masalas.
*Add 2 cups water or chicken stock and cook on medium flame for 20 minutes.
*Once the chicken is cooked, check the consistency of the gravy. It should be neither too watery nor too dry.
*Add vinegar, sugar and jardaloos.
*Cook for 3 more minutes.
*Garnish with the salli and serve with chapatis.