Monday, 30 January 2012

Ben's Chicken Curry Potjie

I have been so stressed about my January blog. We started the month in Australia, travelled back to the UK, and then reality set in. Work, work, work with so much to catch up on so Fire and Food was to be well and truly parked. Then I was saved. Saved by an invitation to visit to my foodie South African friend Ben in Herefordshire and the promise of a proper traditional potjie curry cooked over an open fire. So here I am, the second last day of January, relieved that I have a story to tell.

I just love all things South African, and a Cape Malay curry with great friends after a manic week of work was just too good to be true. We legged it from Oxfordshire as soon as school finished to miss the traffic and arrived in time to enjoy Bringsty Common at dusk. Bringsty Common itself is a delight. Over 200 acres of hills with just a few dozen rural homes scattered about. A perfect setting for a South African family in need of open space.

The moment we arrived I could smell the curry spices in the kitchen. The fire for the potjie had not yet been lit so there was plenty of time to enjoy the whole experience.

You might not associate South Africa with curry, but there is a huge Malay influence going back several centuries from when enslaved Javanese from modern day Indonesia were transported to the country by the Dutch East India Company. There remains a Cape Malay ethnic group and their food culture has become an integral part of South African cuisine.

A potjie (pronounced poit-kee) is a three legged cast iron pot for cooking over an open fire. Ben had his sitting on a purpose made ring in the base of his Weber.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

- 8-10 Chicken legs and thighs
- Two large onions, finely sliced
- Large piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 2-3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 1 handful of chopped potatoes
- 1 handful of chopped carrots
- 1 tbsp garam masala (for the dry rub)
- 1 tbsp medium curry powder (for the dry rub)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 star anise
- 1 piece of cinnamon bark
- 1 tbsp hot curry powder
- 1 extra tsp of garam masala


Coat the chicken pieces in the dry rub spices for at least a few hours before cooking. Get the pot nice and hot before browning the chicken pieces in the olive oil. Once browned remove the chicken pieces and cover them with foil. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and remaining spices to the pot and stir to mix in all the bits left in the pot from browning the chicken.

Once the onions are soft return the chicken pieces to the pot, add the tinned tomatoes and stir until it starts to simmer. Finally add the potatoes and carrots, put the lid on and let it be for an hour or so. The fire needs to be just hot enough to keep it at a gentle simmer.

By the time this baby came to the table it was sensational. Intensely aromatic and full of flavour. Ben served it up with rice, a refreshing cucumber salad, and rotis. A dish of traditional South African bobotie also graced the table. I've not had anything like it before, a rich meaty, fruity dish topped with a savoury custard and baked in the oven. We had some of it cold on toast the following morning. What a treat.

After the meal, the girls donned their pinnies and slashed 'a few' damsons in preparation for Tersia's mega batch of damson jam.

Thank you again Ben and Tersia, it was a meal to remember.

Sunrise at Bringsty Common

1 comment:

Lola Lobato said...

Beautiful post! culture, friends and food. Surrounded by the best.

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