When the weather is as good as it has been I really start to crave spiced food, dishes redolent of tropical heat and dusty markets. It feels like it should be a holiday and I want meals to match.
This is where Creole food comes into its own. It’s a real mish-mash of flavours from around the world. Indian meets African with a smattering of East Asian, Spanish and French all built on Native Caribbean foundations.
Marinating the chicken
Columbo chicken is fairly typical (if there is such a thing as a typical Creole dish). It’s based around a simple chicken stew with European aromatic herbs like bay and thyme combined with warm South Asian spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander.
The Columbo curry powder itself is a surprisingly mellow and warm delight. When I first started to use it I balked at the amounts required. But it’s not as powerful as many curry powders and pastes, more comforting beach BBQ than raging furnace. It pulls the whole dish together beautifully.
I should say here that I’m very much a novice when it comes to Creole cooking. So I suspect there are plenty of super spicy meals just waiting for me out there. But so far it’s been a mellow voyage of discovery. Perfect for a Sunday lunch outside in the garden, eaten under an azure sky to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.
Simmering the chicken
Chicken in a Columbo curry sauce
Serves four with rice and beans
This is a warm curry and not nearly as powerful as it looks. If anything, you could add a little cayenne or dried chilli to the chicken to give it a bit more oomph. But if you want a gently spiced meal to chill you out on a summer evening, this is it.
I reckon you could always add a little creme fraiche, single cream or Greek yoghurt to the sauce at the end to make a truly smooth dish. Or serve the chicken with a mustardy salad. It would all work well. It’s brilliant for packed lunches too.
1 red onion – chopped
2 cloves garlic – chopped
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
2 tblsp oil
Salt & pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 chicken – jointed into 8 pieces
3 shallots – roughly chopped
Handfull of parsley – roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
Thumb of ginger – finely chopped
1 aubergine – halved and sliced
2 bay leaves
4-5 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Half tap ground coriander
3-4 tblsp Columbo curry powder
Coriander leaves to garnish
Oil – ideally groundnut or rapeseed
About 1l of water or vegetable stock
Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the chicken. Make sure all the pieces are well coated, cover and leave in the fridge for 3 hours or so.
Heat up the oil in a pan big enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer and when hot, brown them.
Remove the chicken, add some more oil and fry the aubergine until it starts to colour. Add the chicken, parsley, shallots, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry for approximately 5 minutes.
Pour in enough water to just cover the chicken. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, thyme, bay leaves and curry powder. Stir it all together and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on a low-medium heat for about 30 mins.
Remove the chicken and as much of the aubergine as you can. Pour the rest of the sauce through a sieve into a jug. Pour it into the pan and reduce it. You could thicken it with cornflour if you like. Spoon over the chicken. Garnish with the coriander leaves and eat with rice.