West Indian Chicken Curry & Island Fried Rice
The best way to develop your palate is to venture into parts unknown and let your taste buds explore. Discover a little heat, and sweet island spice, in your own kitchen with West Indian Chicken Curry & Island Fried Rice.
In the depths of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, curry takes on an intensity and richness as a result of overlapping cultures. The cuisine is a result of a fusion of flavours that includes native cultures, Indian, African, Creole, Lebanese, European and Chinese in what could be called a true melting pot of gastronomy. Heat and sweetness combine in a unique way. Root vegetables play a huge rule, in nutrition, and colour play and act as a filler to feed hunger mouths.
Nothing fills me with warmth on a cold day quite like a curry. There is an embracing comfort in every bite. The secret to a great curry is making a good curry paste, to blend, and often times cook your spices to achieve the desired result. The biggest difference in a West Indian curry is how we handle our cumin. We brown it first, along with the onions, until it’s dark and toasted before we add our garlic, ginger and other spices to bring this curry into balance.
The result is a rare, spiced mix that is rich and satisfying. Here I’ve paired it with Island Fried Rice, featuring tropical fruits, almonds, cinnamon and allspice to warm the belly and encourage more tasty travel. If rice is your nemesis here’s a Gypsy cooking tip for perfect basmati rice. Each rice cooks differently, this method works beautifully for basmati and most long grain rice. Don’t take no crap from rice!
Go forth and conquer.
For best basmati rice results:
Rinse and drain your rice. Your cooking ratio for perfect basmati, every time, is 1.5 to 1, this means for every cup of rice, use and a half cups of water and a pinch of salt. Add cold water, rice and salt in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring it to boil over high heat stirring occasionally, then lower your heat and simmer for about 10 minutes (lid off), or until most of the water has been absorbed. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for another 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is fork tender. To cool immediately, spread rice evenly on a sheet pan, and chill.
West Indian Chicken Curry
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
1/4 cup light cooking oil (sunflower, safflower)
2 onions, chopped fine
2 tablespoon cumin
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 red birds eye chili peppers, minced (to taste)
3 pounds (1 kilogram) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
2 12-ounce (398 ml) cans of coconut milk
2 medium yams, peeled and cubed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large red pepper, cut julienne
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat add about half the oil and sweat onions until tender. Add remaining oil, and 2 tablespoons of cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until cumin is well browned and shifts from it’s original colour to a dark paste, about 5 minutes. Then add garlic, ginger and spices to cumin/onion paste and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning to create a thick, toasted curry paste, add more oil if needed, to allow flavors to release. Add chilies and cook for about two minutes to unleash the heat.
2. Meanwhile, cut and season chicken thighs well. Add chicken to hot curry paste to seal the flesh, and cook, tossing as needed, about 5 minutes. Cover with coconut milk and stir to coat and cover. Add yams, sweet potato and red pepper and bring to a boil (add water if needed to cover) and reduce heat to a low and simmer, at least 30 minutes.
3. As the curry thickens check seasoning, add additional heat (chilies) if needed, and salt to taste. Serve with plain basmati rice, Roti or Island Fried Rice (below).
Island Fried Rice
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
3 cups basmati rice, cooked
4 tablespoons cooking oil
3 green onions, cut into diagonal 1/2 inch pieces
1 birds eye pepper, seeded & minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup banana, chopped
1/4 cup mango, peeled & chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
a pinch each – cinnamon, allspice & cayenne
salt & pepper to taste