Recipe: The perfect bunny chow

2014-10-30 11:00

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Britannia hotel’s mutton bunny curry recipe

This is what they have made for decades to fill one of Durban’s classiest bunny chows.

In the old days, before the Umgeni riverside became the busiest and noisiest street in town, the Britannia Hotel was a genteel watering hole, serving pink gins to white colonialists on its front veranda, and beer and spirits to black customers through hatches at the back.

Since 1983 the Brits has been owned by the Moodley family. Young Linkey Moodley, then just graduated, borrowed money to invest in the hotel and managed to pay off the loan in five years.

Now you’ll find the Thirsty Horse sports pub with big screens, a revamped restaurant lit by vast chandeliers (“snazzy with ambience”), Tattersalls for betting-mad locals and recently, a new multistorey conference centre.

Linkey has been busy. But it is the Brits’ food that made its reputation – it’s still an essential ingredient in the business.

Linkey’s grandmother was an “exquisite” cook and his mother, queen of the kitchen for 20 years, is no less accomplished. Britannia’s reputation for stellar Durban Indian dishes was established by the two of them. The hotel’s masalas, while no longer made on site, are still ground to their special recipe (“secret”, says Linkey, “protected, just like Kentucky”). Everything comes to the table covered with clear plastic domes. And there are still women in pole positions – the impeccable kitchens are managed by Rebecca Naidoo. Shamla Naidoo runs the hotel.


.?100ml oil

.?1 large onion, chopped

.?1/4 tsp turmeric

.?1 bay leaf

.?3 small cinnamon sticks

.?1 tsp fennel seeds

.?4 tbsp mixed masala

.?2 tsp ginger and garlic paste

.?1 medium tomato, chopped

.?500g mutton, cut into bite-sized pieces

.?1 sprig curry leaves

.?2 tsp salt


.?6 even-sized, soft-cooking potatoes

.?3 sprigs fresh dhania (coriander) chopped


Heat oil. Add onion, turmeric, bay leaf, cinnamon and fennel seeds. Fry for a few seconds until onion softens.

Add masala, ginger and garlic, allow to cook for a few seconds but take care not to burn. Add tomato. When almost cooked, stir in meat and allow to sauté. Add curry leaves, salt and water to cover.

Bring to the boil then lower heat to moderate and cover. Cook for 20-25 mins, add potatoes. Continue cooking until meat is tender and potatoes are soft.

Spoon into quarter loaves of hollowed-out white bread or bowls if you prefer.

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