Food – Spicy route to freedom

2010-07-17 16:54

In her book Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela, author Anna Trapido relates the story of what Nelson Mandela ate the day he was released from prison in ­February 1990.

He was a guest of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the household decided to serve chicken curry, which Mandela apparently thoroughly enjoyed.

Throughout the book, there are numerous ­references to curry, which seems to have been a firm favourite with the former president.

Twenty years on, while 7 would never presume to try to recreate that curry, we offer up this ­delicious spicy concoction.

Inspired by all the wonderful curries in ­Trapido’s book – from Amina Pahad’s Dry Chicken Curry to Lillian Nosipho Ngoboza’s Chicken Curry – the one below commemorates that ­memorable Madiba meal.

If you are not au fait with spices, it may take a little planning.

Head for a spice market to get some help sorting your fenugreek from
your cumin.


» Sunflower oil for frying

» 1.6kg chicken thighs

» 2 large onions, finely chopped

» 3 large cloves garlic, crushed

» 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

» Fresh green chilli, chopped (to taste)

» 2 cans chopped tomatoes

» ¼ cup chicken stock

» 2 teaspoons black mustard seed

» ¼ teaspoon fenugreek

» 16 curry leaves, torn

» 1 tin coconut cream

» 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (optional)

» 1 tablespoon ground coriander

» 2 teaspoons ground paprika

» 1 teaspoon ground tumeric

» 2 teaspoons ground fennel

» 1 teaspoon salt

» ½ cup frozen peas and/or green beans


In a heavy-based saucepan, fry the black mustard seed and curry leaves for a couple of minutes in some oil.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, and cook until the onion browns. Then add the ground coriander, paprika, tumeric, fennel, fenugreek and salt.

Add the chicken, tomato and stock. Simmer for about an hour – half with the lid on and half with the lid off – until the sauce thickens.

Add the peas and/or beans, coconut cream and tamarind paste, and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice or in rolls with chutney.

The best thing about curry is that it’s even better a day or two after you’ve made it.

» Trapido’s book is published by Jacana


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