A Lifestyle Blog by Mwahaki King

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Saturday, 25 February 2017

What's for Dinner? | Jamaican Curry Chicken & Basmati Rice


Hello everyone! Today, I’m sharing another childhood favourite: Jamaican Curry Chicken. I can still recall many Sunday afternoons sitting on a veranda in suburban St. Andrew with a plate of curry chicken and rice in my lap as Beres Hammond’s melodious voice drifted over from a neighbour’s radio, crooning out hits like “I Feel Good” and “Rockaway”.


Jamaica has a sizeable population of Indian descent given the history of indentured servitude which began in 1845, due to the social and economic changes that arose after the emancipation of slaves in 1838. Between 1845 and 1917 over 36,000 Indians came to the island, and after this period smaller numbers came to Jamaica in the twentieth century as merchants rather than labourers.

Fast forward to 2017 and it’s safe to say that the varied ethnic cultures in Jamaica have influenced each other greatly. As a natural product of this passage of time, recipes have evolved accordingly. Thus, the Jamaican Curry Chicken we see today is distinct from the original chicken curry seen in contemporary India. It has become a Jamaican culinary classic that embodies the nation’s motto “Out of Many, One People.”



Traditionally, Jamaican Curry Chicken is served over white rice, with curried Russet Potatoes (or Irish Potatoes as they are known in Jamaica) mixed in with the chicken. However, in the recipe below I have made a slight change and replaced the potatoes with red bell peppers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the conventional way of cooking curry chicken; but as we’ve seen culture is fluid and there’s always room for innovation. As such, I thought this would be a fun and delicious tweak on tradition. Plus, the sweetness of the peppers compliments the curry sauce beautifully; providing a depth of flavour that the potatoes can sometimes lack as they tend to absorb the sauce and blend in with the rice, rather than add another dimension of their own. So, whether you’re a Jamaican looking for a taste of home or a foreigner looking to experience the cultural complexity and flavours of our island paradise, this dish is for you! Let’s get started:


INGREDIENTS (To serve 4)
·        2/3 cup of olive oil
·     
            ½ cup of yellow onions, diced finely

·        4 cloves of garlic, diced finely

·        ½ a red bell pepper, chopped

·        1 cup of chopped scallion (a.k.a green onions/spring onions), divided

·        1 tsp of salt

·        ½ tsp of black pepper

·        1 tsp pimento (a.k.a all spice)

·        3 tbsp turmeric

·        2 tbsp curry powder

·        A sprig of fresh thyme or ½ tbsp of thyme leaves

·        1 tbsp Grace “Caribbean Traditions” Vegetable Seasoning. (This is sold in most grocery stores in the Caribbean/International aisle. If the seasoning is unavailable, use the following combination as a substitute: 2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp black pepper, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper)

·        1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped and removed of seeds. BE CAREFUL when handling scotch bonnet peppers as they are quite hot. Wash hands thoroughly and AVOID any contact with your eyes. If scotch bonnet peppers are unavailable, you can use ½ tsp of ground cayenne pepper in its place. (Use only ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper if you’re using the Grace Vegetable Seasoning Substitute)

·        1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (preferably organic), cut into strips

·        Basmati Rice

RECIPE
Combine olive oil, onions, garlic, red bell pepper, salt, pimento, turmeric, curry powder, thyme, Grace Vegetable Seasoning, scotch bonnet and ½ cup of scallion (all of the white bottoms and some of the green tops) into an air tight container or Ziploc bag, to make a marinade. Add chicken to the marinade and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, bring 1/3 cup of lightly salted water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Place marinated chicken mixture into the Dutch oven and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook on a simmer for 20 minutes.

While chicken cooks, prepare your Basmati Rice. Place 1 cup of rice in a bowl, fill with water and set aside to remove excess starch. Drain the rice that had been set aside and repeat if necessary.

In the meantime, place 1 ¾ cups of water in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, black pepper and garlic powder to the water and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, cover and reduce to a very low heat. Let this simmer for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

Returning to the chicken, remove cover from the Dutch oven and simmer chicken for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Stir in remaining scallion green tops and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve over Basmati Rice.

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