I find it interesting how dishes make their way round the world starting off in one country only to be taken up as ‘a local dish’ in other. Take Kedgeree for instance, an dish originating in India, that became a quintessentially English dish and the iconic American Hot Dog, an import from Germany.
Whilst looking for recipes my book, Recipes for an Unknown Kitchen, I found a recipe for Chicken Country Captain in a hand written recipe book written by a G. Watson, a fabulous find, crammed with recipes and marked through with smudges and grease marks, a book that had been used well, covering a period from 1940s to 1960s.
What an unusual name I thought, looked it up and found that the dish comes from the southern states of America where there are hundreds of different versions and states vie as to where it originated. However it didn’t stop there, it seems that the dish did originate in India finding its way to America where it has been adopted as a classic southern dish.
I found a recipe Country Captain Vegetables in the Indian 1947 edition of Indian Cookery by E. P. Veerasawmy (also spelt Veeraswamy). Veeraswamy, in Regent Street, is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the UK, opened in 1926.
So here are both recipes in honour of National Curry Week, but which Nation?
Chicken Country Captain
This version is very simple, Anglicised and very tasty. The chilli powder gives it a kick so reduce it to your taste.
4 x chicken portions
100g ghee or vegetable oil
A large sliced onion
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground chilli
½ teaspoon salt
Fry the onion in the ghee or oil depending on your preference until it is crispy and caramelised but not too dark. Remove it from the pan and place on a plate with some kitchen roll to drain. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary then add the turmeric and chilli, fry briefly then add the chicken. Cook on a medium heat to ensure it is cooked through thoroughly, turning it regularly. The cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken portions but cook for about 30 minutes then test. Cook for the first 15 minutes with a lid or cover on the pan then remove it to reduce any liquid. I have also tried this using a tablespoon of the Curry Powder from Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen and it works really well. Serve with rice cooked your favourite way and with the onions on top.
Country Captain Vegetables
This is a good way of using up those left over vegetables or the odd collection of vegetables that seem to live in the veg box at the end of the week, any mixture will do.
2lb (1 kg) cooked cold vegetables chopped in chunks of around 2cm.
I large onion, finely sliced (or the equivalent in sliced spring onions)
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced lengthwise.
4 fresh or pickled chillies ( or less depending on the heat you want)
1 dessertspoon of curry powder
1 tablespoon of cooking oil or ghee
I tablespoon vinegar or tamarind water
Salt to taste
Lightly fry the onions and garlic. Toss the vegetables in a bowl with the curry powder, add the chillies and sprinkle the vinegar over and mix. Add the vegetables to the pan with the onions and garlic and sautee. Salt to taste. Serve with rice and fresh scraped or desicated coconut (optional). Again I have used my own curry powder but use whichever is your favourite.