Guyanese Chicken Curry

10 Dec

My son Sean is so fond of my good friend Debbie Brewster that he doesn’t even scowl when she pinches his cheeks.

Deb rides with him on rollercoasters, tells him he’s handsome (all the time), and laughs at his funny stories so loud that, if we’re in a restaurant, people lay down their cutlery to stop and see what’s going on.

Recently Debbie has started thinking about Sean’s future. He turns 16 next year, so she decided he needed a signature dish… something really tasty to impress the ladies and keep scurvy at bay during his college years.

So last week, she invited him over for a master class in  Guyanese Chicken Curry. Deb’s recipe (learned in her mother’s kitchen) involved fistfuls of this and shakes of that, but my pal kindly tamed it with measuring cups and spoons before passing it on.

She was in fact cooking up the curry that night in anticipation of another coming-of-age: that of This magazine, an independent Canadian publication about politics, the environment, art and culture.

While This magazine has the feistiness and energy of a teen, the wisdom of its words befits its actual age–45 next year. Its board members were chez Deb for a birthday “fun-raising” committee meeting. They came up with brilliant ideas for events–some involving kissing booths, some Margaret Atwood–and Debbie and Sean supplied the fuel to keep the inspiration coming.

The piece-de-resistance was a mild curry with tons of vegetables soaked in delicious, spicy sauce and with tender hunks of chicken falling off the bone. It was accompanied by warm, slightly charred and puffy flatbreads to soak up the juices. Deb said it was good to have Sean around for those: “We need his small child-hands to clap the roti.” She was reluctant to let me help. If you haven’t turned your palms to Teflon by clapping hot roti from a tender age, apparently it’s just too painful.

The meal was a big hit with the guests, and it gave me enormous pleasure to watch my son hard at work with a peeler. Deb is hands-down the best coming-of-age caterer and auntie in the world. I’d like to thank her for sharing her kitchen savvy with Sean and for letting me share this heirloom recipe with you:

Guyanese Chicken Curry

4 chicken breasts (on the bone)
12 chicken thighs (on the bone)
2 limes, juiced
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
5 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
5 medium potatoes, cut into sixths
4 large beef tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp curry powder
3 tsp garam masala
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp salt
1 cup water
3/4 can coconut milk

1. In a large bowl, mix 6 tbsp oil, lime juice and 1 tbsp salt.  Slather chicken breasts and thighs with mix and leave to marinate, at least two hours, in fridge.

2. In a very large non-stick pot, bring 2 tbsp olive oil to medium heat, tip in garlic  and stir for a couple of minutes until gently warmed. Tip in celery, 1/4 of chopped carrot, and onion, and stir with wooden spoon until onion is soft.

3. Reduce heat and lay chicken breasts and thighs on top of thin layer of vegetables in pot until meat is browned on one side (around 5 minutes). Flip and brown other side.

4. Into the pot, add  bay leaves, curry powder, garam masala, cumin, salt and water. Stir until heated and blended. Add remaining carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cover and allow to simmer gently at a low temperature (at least 1 hour).

5. Stir in coconut milk, and add salt, if required, to taste.

6. Serve with warm, delicious roti.

12 Responses to “Guyanese Chicken Curry”

  1. FR December 10th, 2010 at 10:34 AM #

    Olive oil in curry!?!

    • Carrie December 10th, 2010 at 8:42 PM #

      Yes. Olive oil is a result of Mediterranean immigration to the West Indies in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Olive oil proved hard to give up, and is one of the secret qualifiers of West Indian food (also the stamp of approval of Lebanese and Syrian settlements on Carribbean and Brazilian coastlines).

  2. Claire December 10th, 2010 at 10:43 AM #

    Nice work Val! Looks like a great recipe.

  3. Claire December 10th, 2010 at 10:46 AM #

    Now you need to add the recipe for the roti!

    • Valerie Howes December 11th, 2010 at 3:50 AM #

      That will be published in the March issue in print. 🙂

  4. Joy December 10th, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

    What a lovely dish..the curry too!!
    This is a great business, cooking classes featuring healthy and exciting recipies for young men. Where do I sign up?

  5. chicken curry December 15th, 2010 at 7:52 AM #

    Thank you the recipe is excellent , i tried it today and it turned out good and my family enjoyed it..keep it up

  6. Kendra December 17th, 2010 at 10:40 PM #

    Yum. I’ll try it out this week. Debbie’s right about clapping roti- it hurts but it is so worth it! Next time you’re in Montreal we can do a pirogi session…

    • Valerie Howes December 18th, 2010 at 7:43 AM #

      I’m in for that! We’re making blintzes for the March issue, and I wished you were around.

  7. ingrid December 22nd, 2011 at 5:39 PM #

    Looks excellent, just like ma ma used to make. I do not use that specific recipie but I intend to try it! Yes Olive oil is the best! Even in the Roti mixture.
    where can I find the recdipie for the ‘Black Cake” ? Keep up the good work.

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