Two of the charming characteristics which endeared my father to many people were: one, he was an unshakeable patriot and as I write this it is Independence Day in St. Lucia, and two, he believed in the sanctity of family and did all he could to celebrate and support it. Any chance he got, he’d invite everyone over and just casually wave a hand at my mother and hey presto expect a lovely meal. Usually she complied. This meal was about exactly that. Celebrating family that is, not “hey presto”. I hadn’t had my whole family over to see our new home and what better way to do that than to share a meal. That’s why the proportions are so big.
I chose this opportunity to use the gigantic pumpkin that “Nick the bushman” had given me before Christmas. It sat on the kitchen step in the old house and made the big move with us, all the while waiting for Rosie to declare it ready to eat. Despite my worries that I would cut it open and find the middle rotten, she was right. It was perfect so I used it as the “bowl” to serve this delicious creamy meal, getting everyone to scoop a bit off the sides when helping themselves to the chicken. It worked a charm.
You may think because of the length of this post and the number of ingredients that this is a complicated dish. It really isn’t. It is in fact technically very simple so please give it a whirl as it is truly delicious. There were zero left overs for Mark and I the next day.
1. Before starting to cook, assemble the various elements of this meal. So, prepare the spices, chop the onions and chicken, blend the coriander, ginger and garlic, have ready both sorts of tomatoes, measure out the cream and yog.
2. Heat 1 tbsp each of the coconut oil and the olive oil and soften the onions. Add the coriander mixture and then the spices. Make sure it is all well mixed. Tip this redolent mixture into a bowl and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining oil and in batches lightly brown the chicken pieces. Try to do this on the highest heat as you don’t want to over cook the chicken at this point. Remove the chicken to another bowl.
4. Add the spiced onion mixture back to the saucepan. Add both sorts of tomatoes and the water and let simmer gently for 40 minutes. Keep an eye as you really wouldn’t want your labour of love to stick and burn. Add water if you feel its necessary.
5. Stir in the cream and yog and add salt and pepper.
6. Add the chicken to the sauce and let cook for another 10 or 15 minutes.
This Chicken Recipe Serves 14 people
2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) boneless chicken thighs (about 20 depending on size) cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large onions finely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
In the UK it is possible to buy chicken thighs already boned. Not so in St. Lucia. There really isn’t a technique that I have discovered to do this job apart from using common sense, a very sharp knife and extreme caution where your fingers are concerned. You could of course leave the meat on the bone, but I think special-ness is worth it so I boned mine.
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cardamom seeds (about 15 pods)
Roast together the cumin seeds, fenugreek and cardamom seeds in a dry frying pan and grind together in a spice mill or pestle and mortar.
large bunch fresh coriander
large grated thumb ginger
4 cloves garlic
4 green chillies
Blend all together until as smooth as possible
1 can tomatoes (400 g, 14 oz)
3 or 4 large fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
350 ml, (1.5 c, 12 oz) water
200 ml (7 oz, scant cup) double cream
250 ml (8.5 oz, heaping cup) plain yogurt
It took an hour in the oven at 180ºC (350ºF) to cook the pumpkin. You do not need to do this step unless you too have a gigantic pumpkin that you want to use as a bowl.