This African curry is a simple, basic curry, developed by my grandmother and later adapted, that can be easily altered to fit your liking (and in some cases, your on-hand ingredients). Add more “heat” or less, more veggies, or even substitute the chicken for shrimp. Since everyone’s palate and spice tolerance levels vary greatly, it is likely that you will need to experiment with this recipe to varying degrees. In either case, serve over rice. Oh, and have fun!
A note about curry:
There are as many different types of curries as there are salsas – from red to green, powder to paste, mild to fiery, Thai to Indian (and even regional ones in each country) and everything in-between, each emphasizing different spices. Of course, you can experiment to see how much to add (for your desired flavoring and “heat”) and which ones you like best, but I personally prefer those with little to no cinnamon. There are plenty of prepared curry blends for purchase at various stores, but the powdered varieties generally found at your local grocery store can be a bit more bland. I suggest purchasing from a specialty grocery store, like an Indian store, or a spice store, like Spice Station (I love their gourmet spices, by the way), or making your own. There are several basic powder recipes online that you can mix and add to with spices you probably already have in your cupboard (things commonly seen are cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger, fenugreek, peppers, mustard seeds, and more).
Yields 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil, separated into 2 equal parts
1 onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, completely drained and diced (or 2-4 fresh tomatoes, diced)
2+ teaspoons curry paste
1/4 teaspoon salt to taste (coarse salt works better)
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cubed
14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 T light brown sugar
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup carrots, sliced or cut into 2-3 inch strips
Optional: dash of cayenne pepper or chili powder for additional kick, 1 T cornstarch (for thicker consistency), 3T of plain yogurt sprinkled with turmeric for marinating.
Optional: Marinate the chicken in a mixture of the plain yogurt and turmeric for at least 30 minutes (in the refrigerator).
- Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink and the juices run clear. Set aside.
- Add another T oil and stir in the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, and bay leaf. Saute until onion is lightly browned and veggies are lightly cooked. Reduce heat to low.
- Add chicken back into the skillet. Stir in tomatoes, curry powder, and salt, then simmer about 5 minutes.
- Stirring constantly, add a dash of cayenne pepper or chili powder (optional) and sugar.
- Gradually blend in the coconut milk and cornstarch (optional) over a period of about 10 minutes.
- Mix in lemon juice just before serving. Serve over rice.