We recently had a Navy festival in Simons Town. My son had such a ball with all the activities, exhibitions and displays. He enjoyed the ships and boats, but especially the submarine. We had to go on almost all of the ships, and to do that it meant going there everyday from Friday to Sunday. But lucky for us, the navy is just on the other side of the harbour, and we thoroughly enjoyed the amazing Air Force planes’ display at home. I had 2 highlights from the weekend.
The first was the amazing slush puppies! They were so good, much better than the ones you buy at the movies.
My second was the German ship, with the hottest soldiers! There’s just something about men in uniform but this was beyond that. It was almost like good looks were a requirement for the job. I’m not complaining. I’m married but i’m allowed to look right? Well I think I am, there was a discussion about looking being allowed but no touching. Being married should not mean you need to be blind or have tunnel vision. I think it’s perfectly normal and even healthy to appreciate the world around you. You should give credit where credit is due. And it helps you appreciate what you’ve got as well. As long as it’s discussed and agreed on by all the parties within the marriage.
Enough about festivals and hot boys. Work is so busy, a bit ridiculous actually, but that’s a discussion for another day. Through all of this, I’ve been craving a bit of home. Not sure why but it’s that warm feeling you get when you smell your mom’s food, that I’m missing. Maybe I just need a big warm hug, husband please come back soon! Any black person in South Africa, regardless of culture or tribe, will tell you about that wholesome, fragrant, and makes your tummy growl when you smell it; chicken and rice dish.
In Zulu we call it ‘ukhari wenkukhu’, directly translated ‘chicken curry’. And no it’s not curry, it’s more like a chicken stew and it’s not hot at all. But you can increase the heat if you wish. I’m not really sure where that classic fragrant smell comes from, but every house had the same smell for this dish. I think it could be the ‘Rajah’ curry spice. So I’ll attempt to replicate this traditional chicken dish. What I know for sure is, there’s chicken and different veg. This is where we’ll start.
What do I need? Serves 4
- 4 chicken thighs
veg- 2 homemade pulled tomatoes (see a prior blog), 1 onion, 1 whole tomato, 3 cloves of garlic, spring onions
spices- ‘rajah mild and spicy’ curry powder, salt & pepper, chili flakes, coriander powder, homemade masala spice
What to do?
I’m going through a brining phase. I’ve come to appreciate how much flavour, seasoning and moisture you can add to your protein before cooking it. I don’t think I’ll ever eat dry chicken ever again. Brine your chicken for 16-24 hrs, the longer the better.
Brining liquid is made of 1/4 salt( 75g) and 3/4 sugar( 250g) all dissolved in a little bit of warm water and when dissolved add up to 1 litre of cold water. Then add whatever seasoning you wish to add on to your protein. For this chicken dish I’m adding fresh chopped oregano,4 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks. When done adding the seasoning, add the chicken thighs and let the magic happen. Keep in the fridge.
NB: must not be kept in a warm place, otherwise your protein can start going off. I learnt this the hard way..
After 24 hrs, take out of the brining liquid and vigorously wash off the chicken, of the salt and sugar. Rub the chicken with the ‘Rajah’ curry powder and set aside for now. In a hot pan, add in chopped onion in olive oil, the garlic when softened, then chopped coriander and the pieces of chicken and mix well. In 5 minutes add 2 homemade peeled tomatoes with some of the juices from preservation, 1 tbs of ‘Rajah’ mild and spicy curry powder and a dash of water with a beef stock cube. Continue cooking.
In 10 minutes, add chopped spring onion and a dash of white wine.Cook for another 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. After this time, it should be done.
While the chicken, the main attraction, is cooking, start making the rice. In a pot on a hot stove, add in your cup of rice with the ‘spice for rice’ seasoning, salt and water. Then cook. When cooked, sieve and set aside. When both the chicken and rice are done. Serve the chicken on the bed of rice with sprinkles of chopped coriander leaves.
And bon Appetit! Does it taste the same as the chicken dish my mama used to make? Nope, pretty close but I still can’t get that signature fragrant smell. Maybe it wasn’t the ‘rajah curry powder’ then. I was so convinced. I suppose the easiest way would be to ask my mother, wouldn’t it?
It was still delicious though, in its own way. And the chicken is perfectly cooked and so moist inside and falling off the bones. I’m brining everything from now on!