Creole cuisine forms a large part of traditional Mauritian cooking. Photographer Russell Smith and I were treated to a wonderful Creole feast at a table d’hote (host’s table – usually a small family-run restaurant) called Escale Creole in the little town of Moka, in the hills above Port Louis.
This is one of the dishes that guests are offered as part of a multi-course Creole lunch at Escale Creole – and it’s one of their most popular. It’s a traditional Creole chicken curry – a meal you’re likely to find on many Mauritian tables.
Creole chicken curry (cari poule)
- 1.2 kg whole chicken (preferably grain-fed and free range)
- 5 big onions, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 10 g fresh ginger, crushed
- 10 stems of thyme, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- 4 stems of curry leaves (you can use dried curry leaves), finely chopped
- 100 ml cooking oil
- 100 ml water
- 1 tin peeled tomatoes
- a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
- 3 tbsp Creole curry powder (see note below)
Cut the chicken into chunky pieces, leaving the bones in. Marinate the chicken in 50ml of oil, salt and pepper, half of the crushed garlic and ginger, half of the thyme, half of the fresh coriander and all of the parsley stems. Leave in the fridge for at least two hours. (Ideally marinate the chicken the night before you cook it).
To cook the curry, heat the other 50 ml of oil in a large flat pan, add the chicken and fry until well browned all over. Take the chicken out of the pan and put aside.
In the pan, stir-fry the onions until lightly browned and add the remaining garlic, ginger and thyme. Turn down the heat and cook for a further ten minutes.
Turn up the heat a bit, add the tin of tomatoes, and then cover and allow to cook for five minutes. Add the curry powder, half of the chopped coriander (leaving a few for the garnish), and the water and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the chicken pieces back in. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is tender. Sprinkle the chopped coriander over before serving.
In Mauritius, this kind of curry is traditionally served with rice, lentils and vegetable pickles (atchar or achard).
If you can’t get your hands on Creole curry powder (as in, you haven’t been to Mauritius in awhile) you can use a mild curry powder, or make your own using a mixture of turmeric powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, cinnamon powder, ground cumin, ground fenugreek and ground cardamom.
A lunch at Escale Creole should be on your list of ‘foodie’ things to do in Mauritius. Hosts Marie Christine Forget and her mother Majo are charming, friendly and more than willing to chat about Creole cuisine – giving you a wonderful insight into Mauritian culture and cooking.
You need to book in advance at Escale Creole – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +230-422-2332.
Photo by Russell Smith www.russellsmith.co.za
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