Tongabezi Chicken Curry

When deciding to cover foods from different continents for Ramadan this year, I have to say that while I felt I was well informed about food in general, I really didn’t know what to expect about non Arab African food. I was familiar with North Africa food and as a coeliac I now know to remind any waiter not to put any free bread over or under my food. I just really didn’t know what to expect with Africa let alone Zambia.

I found this recipe in Floyd on Africa and pretty much all recipes of Tonzabezi Chicken Curry are variations of his. I have, however, made alterations to suit my palate. I’m sure the late Keith Floyd won’t mind. I’ve put the butternut squash in with the chicken as it adds taste and texture to the chicken. I can’t abide the taste of ‘curry’ powder and never use. I also feel that if you are cooking meat on the bone there really is no need to use stock. The chicken, as they cook, will create their own stock from real bones. I’ve also added cumin seeds because the dish lacked a certain je ne sais quoi until this was added. Finally a sprinkle of fresh coriander makes this perfect.

This dish is soothing, comforting and the dish that you just want to come home to. It really is. Serve with white rice, and the sautéed sweet potato on the side. With plantation banana custard for dessert this was simply perfect. Alhumdulilah.

Ingredients – Serves 4
2 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash
4 pieces of chicken (I used legs)
2 onions
½ a tin of tomatoes
2 inch ginger
2 garlic cloves
6 cardamon pods
½ teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
4 teaspoons dried lemongrass or 2 whole bruised lemongrass
2 large red chillies chopped
4 tablespoon of yoghurt
1 tablespoon fresh corriander

1. Chop the butternut squash in to quarters and remove any seeds. Parboil the sweet potatoes whole, with the quartered butternut squash. When you can put a knife through the butternut squash and sweet potato remove from the pan but keep the water. Peel the butternut squash and cut into bit sized cubes. Leave the sweet potato whole.
2. Dice the onions and slowly cook in a pan until translucent before adding the ginger and garlic
3. Add the cumin, tumeric, lemongrass, salt and peppercorns. For the cardamom pods bruise before adding to pan.
4. Allow the spices to toast slightly, stir the spices for about a minute under a medium heat before adding the chicken to the pan and turning the chicken in the spices
5. Add enough water to cover the chicken
6. Add the tomatoes and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.
7. Add the chopped chillies
8. Add a cup of the sweet potato/butternut squash cooking water to the chicken, along with the cubed butternut squash for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the butternut squash is soft but still holds its shape.
9. Peel and slice the sweet potato and sautee in pan with a little oil until the sweet potato is slightly crunchy
10. Just before you are ready to serve (ie just before you heat the food for iftari) mix in the yoghurt and heat gently, do not allow to boil otherwise the yoghurt will split. It will still be fine to eat but the sauce will look as if it has bits in.
11. Top with coriander
12. Serve with fresh rice and the sautéed sweet potato along side.

Not an Ordinary Cup of Tea!

This is a really easy dish to make. A little strange I grant you, but it works and it tastes even better. The first mouthful is tangy, lemony, herby and garlicy with a faint hint of achar. Everything marries really well.

Achar (pickle) is a staple in most Pakistani households, not necessarily to cook with but to add the added dimension to a meal. Achar comes in a variety of flavours: green mango, lemon, lemon with lemon juice, mixed vegetables the list is endless. For this dish I would suggest using a lemon achar that is more concentrated in flavour than a lemon achar preserved in lemon juice. This is easily found in any Asian food shop.

Often in Ramadan I find that immediately after iftari (the evening meal) I am overcome with sleep and have often begun snoozing before I have even managed to have a cup of tea or coffee to keep me going! With this in mind I thought about incorporating some caffeine into a meal so that it would kick in a little earlier. My next thought concerned whether the tea actually added anything other than caffeine to the meal and I have to say it does, the delicate taste of it in the background tastes familiar but does not over whelm. The combination of lemon, tea, spices and herbs create both a wonderful aroma and taste.

While this recipe does not call for salt, there is generally salt in the olives, salt in the achar and the garlic is pounded with a little salt. So any extra salt should really not be necessary, if however you do feel it is missing some I would only suggest putting some in at the very end, if at all.

One final note, you may wonder why I have decided to cook the chicken breast whole and then slice it, rather than slicing it then cooking it? Chicken breast cooks very quickly which means that often while cooking sliced breast it can cook too quickly and become quite dry and tough. Doing it this way means the chicken breast stays quite juicy.

For Mrs B!

Serves approximately 2-3.

To marinate
2 large chicken breasts sliced in half widthways (so 4 slim slices)
5 garlic cloves pounded with a pinch of coarse salt
1 lemon
10 sage leaves chopped up finely
¼ of the lemon’s lemon zest

To cook
½ onion
1 cup of black tea quickly brewed
1 cup of hot water
Approximately 9 stoned green olives
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of lime pickle (just the paste)
1 to 2 courgettes (dependent on size) chopped into cubes

Leave the chicken to marinate with5 garlic cloves pounded with a pinch of coarse salt, the juice of 1 lemon, ¼ of the lemon’s lemon zest and 10 sage leaves chopped finely. Rub into the chicken. Set this aside.

In the mean time allow the onion to cook in a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy based pan. The oil which burns quickly will cause the onion to go golden very quickly. Try not to let it burn. The aim is to make the onions go golden and crispy.

Quickly brew a cup of black tea. Drop the black tea (minus the bag/tea leaves) into the pan and deglaze the pan rubbing any area where the onions have stuck to the pan. Add another cup of hot water.

Rinse then chop the olives in half and put into the pan. Add 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and ½ teaspoon of lime pickle (just the paste) into the pan. Stir and simmer for 5 mins.

Now add the chicken and all the lemon juices to the pan. Allow the chicken to poach in the liquid. When the chicken looks as if it has nearly cooked, (approximately 7 mins) take it out of the liquid and then slice it in to smaller pieces. Put it back into the liquid and then add the cubed courgette. Cook for a further 5-7 mins until the chicken is cooked and the courgette is soft.

Serve with rice (tea cup optional!)