The Cape of Good Hope

Very recently, I made a meal native to my mother’s neck of the woods. Cape Malay Curry. Some time last month or the one before, my mother hosted a luncheon honoring a friend and served this as the main course. Everyone raved as they always do when Trish is at the helm. The dish sounded familiar, perhaps reminiscent of childhood and I was immediately eager to try my hand at it. Within a day, the recipe arrived via email. We were in business.

The important influence of the Cape Malay community on South Africa can be traced back hundreds of years. Their cuisine is well-known for its command of outstanding spices including all spice, bay leaves, cardamom, turmeric, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, curry powder, garlic, ginger, masala, mint, mustard, nutmeg, saffron, tamarind and a whole host of others. I knew Matthew would be on board with this dish as he loves another famous South African dish, Bobotie, which calls for curry powder, bay leaves, turmeric, sultanas and a few other goodies.

When looking at this recipe, the list of spices may seem overwhelming. I can appreciate this. Many a times I look at a recipe and see foreign ingredients and think, abort mission. This said, I encourage you to pick up spices as recipes calls for them. Before you know it, you will have a well stocked arsenal that will enable you to attack a variety of recipes accordingly. I am always picking up new ones. Case in point, the recipe below. The garam masala I found at a local grocer. Don’t balk at the aggressive price like I did as a little goes a long way. Finding cardamom pods were out of the question at the time so I went for the powder variety. A week later upon discovering a new Indian grocer, we found both and at significantly saved expense I would like to add. My mother buys all of her unusual  herbs and spices at the local Thai market in Wiesbaden, Germany. 

While Cape Malay curries comprise a wonderful medley of aromatic spices, you can always adjust the heat by adding more chilies. The longer this stands, the better it tastes says my mother. Some dishes are just meant to be enjoyed that way. So I made my curry the night before and let the wonderful scent linger in the kitchen and fridge overnight. This enabled the flavors to truly marry together before reheating and serving the next day. With this, a little bit of South Africa from my home to yours.

Cape Malay Curry 

You Will Want to Pick Up

2 lbs chicken breast cut into strips or chunks – you can also use beef or lamb
2 medium onions – chopped
1 granny smith apples – chopped
4 cardamom pods - the ground variant is fine as well
4 short cinnamon sticks
1.5 TBS curry
1 TBS garam masala
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 green chili - I used a jalapeƱo
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
4 TBS olive oil
4 cloves of garlic – chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
1 TBS lemon juice
Kosher salt
Fresh cilantro

You Can Do It

1. Mix all your spices together in a mortar and pestle. Mash together until you have a mess of spices. 

2. Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot and add onion. Saute on high heat for four minutes. Now add the spices and stir for another four minutes or so.

3. Add the chicken broth and can of tomatoes and stir until bubbling. Cook for ten minutes.

4. Now add the chicken pieces and chopped apples. Please throw in your cinnamon sticks at this time too. Turn down the heat to simmer and cook for 40 minutes.

5. Once cooked, discard the cinnamon sticks and if you used them, the cardamom pods.

6. Add the garlic, sugar, lemon juice and some generous pinches of salt to the mix.

7. Stir, taste and adjust flavors as necessary.

Your Cape Malay Chicken Curry pairs best with a nutty brown or white rice. Feel free to add chopped potatoes or sweet potatoes to your curry in step four if you want a heartier medley. Serve with chopped cilantro or roasted peanuts on top.

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