A chicken curry focused on Caribbean home cooking
Roderick Grant could cook before he was taller than the cook.
“From the age of 10, I used to stand on stools to cook in our home kitchen, mainly because my father Dalton worked overseas and as the oldest of five boys I naturally became the my mother Jacqueline’s main assistant cook, ”Grant said of his childhood in Jamaica.
In Jamaica, there are no family traditions that limit cooking to women. “From the very beginning, grandparents and parents start to instill in us boys that we must be able to feed ourselves if we need it. So we learn to cook as part of our education and, by therefore, almost any man in our country can cook, ”says Grant.
“From the age of 10, I was standing on stools to cook in our kitchen at home.”
Jamaican food is mostly healthy, made from scratch, and dependent on seasonal availability. “Our meals were always prepared from native food sources that we grew in our backyard patch of land, such as coconuts, ackee fruit, mangoes, yams, bananas and sweet potatoes. “he said.
On a daily basis, her cooking chores started before school. From 7:30 am, he helps his mother prepare breakfast, which sometimes consists of boiled bananas, sometimes sautéed callaloo: green leafy vegetables, cooked with onion, garlic and tomatoes. If they were lucky they would cook slate cod or fried dumplings.
School canteen lunches consisted only of high quality, traditionally cooked food instead of packaged and processed food. This meant that as a student you could enjoy a run down stew, pork or jerk chicken, goat’s head soup, and even fried chicken with rice and gravy.
“These same recipes were also made at home for dinner, so our food revolved around traditional Jamaican foods which were very tasty and kept us satisfied and healthy,” says Grant.
Grant’s mother was heavily involved in the church, which meant she attended board meetings most weeknights and almost always on weekends, leaving her to take care of dinner.
“On the evenings Mom was not at church meetings, I would still help her prepare dinner and together we would enjoy those rare moments of family sitting on the couch or the veranda, eating and drinking. discuss, ”he said. “On nights when she wasn’t there, I would keep a plate and keep it warm for her to enjoy when she got home.”
Grant’s most memorable culinary adventure took place on Saturday and Sunday mornings. “It’s part of our social education to do something outside on the weekends and for me that was going river fishing with friends,” he says.
“We would take a pot, spices, plain flour and cook whatever we caught in the river.”
“The fish was expensive, so the only way to eat it was to catch it. So we would take a pan, spices, plain flour and cook whatever we caught in the river.” They also ate wild spinach, known as the river callaloo, combined them with their catch of the day in a pot, and spent the day swimming, cooking, and eating.
“We called it ‘running a boat,’ which in the Jamaican vernacular means cooking food. Everyone would put money in to buy the ingredients or each bring an ingredient and then we would cook in the bush. or the river. “
Cooking the chicken back in curry
The most common dinner Grant made as a child was curried chicken back with rice. “Every household has their version of this recipe and ours was passed down from my grandmother Enid to my mom and finally to me,” he says. They taught him when he was 10 years old.
“I used to frequent my grandmother’s house which had a small supermarket in front of her house selling fruit, packaged goods and ready meals, including chicken back curry,” he says. “Watching him prepare it and also thanks to my mother’s instructions, this is how I really learned all of my cooking.”
The recipe includes the back of the chicken, which has little meat but is the cheapest cut.
The chicken back is marinated in a savory Jamaican curry paste, which contains spices such as all-purpose seasonings and all-purpose spices, fresh herbs, paprika and soy sauce. It is then slowly cooked in a Jamaican Dutch pot.
On weekdays, the dish is served with plain boiled rice and, if available, boiled dumplings, yam, pumpkin or bananas – mostly fruits or vegetables that they could grow themselves or themselves. to allow.
Sunday dinner, which in Jamaica is known as the best meal of the week, was the only time they cooked the dish with a whole chicken. They accompanied it with rice, peas and coleslaw.
“I really couldn’t tell you how old I was when I first tried this dish and loved the taste because it was one of those dishes I was given when I was a baby, ”Grant said.
“In Jamaica, we grow up eating real food – basically anything the family eats, not baby food. This dish is just one of those meals that always brings me back to my roots of cooking and eating. at my grandmother’s or with friends. “
Making chicken curry in Australia
At 15, Grant arrived in Melbourne, Australia with his father who had a work opportunity there. This was in 1995. “My dad was working a lot and once again I found myself cooking a lot for my dad, but also for my 18 month old younger brother Andrew, who also decided to move to Australia from there. ‘era,’ says Grant.
They continued to cook chicken curry in their new home, although they incorporated locally available ingredients such as Indian curry powder. Australia’s cost of living also meant they could buy a whole chicken on a regular basis.
“It was always a big hit, because until this day I have friends from high school who talk about coming over to eat my chicken curry. They always say, ‘How good was your chicken curry, guy? The flavor – I can “I don’t think you cooked like that when we were at school ‘.”
Now a father of two, Luther 5 and Khaleesi 6, who have also eaten curried chicken since birth, he continues to cook this dish at least once a week.
Sharing Jamaican food with Australia
Grant’s first hospitality job was at KFC when he was 15. This gave him the experience of joining his friend to run a Jamaican restaurant called Yeah Man in Melbourne South Yarra at age 18. “I went to school during the day and cooked in the restaurant at night,” Grant says.
A year and a half later, Grant bought the restaurant, just as his mother and siblings arrived to settle in Australia. He hired his mother to help him manage it.
Eager to learn more about the business, he moved in 2003 to a daytime human resources role while working in the restaurant at night. He eventually sold his share of the restaurant to his mother in 2007 to focus on a business degree and corporate work.
A few years later, he used his new knowledge to start an import distribution business next door. After selling Yeah Man in 2011, Boss Man Food was born and started importing products from Jamaica, like spices and marinades. However, it has since evolved into a casual dining and dining business. In 2016 Boss Man Food launched its first food truck called The Real Jerk; a second truck followed with the same name the following year. They are both now part of a food hub through which he sells dishes he calls the famous sandwich, the Boss Man Caribbean Curries and the Churro Churro.
In 2020, he teamed up with a friend to form The Food Truck Collective at Malvern East in Melbourne. The collective presents the items served in its food trucks. In May 2021, he opened a restaurant in South Melbourne called Khalu, which serves traditional Jamaican food with a touch of classic pub food.
“I’ve never studied cooking, but I have this ability to understand flavors and blend ingredients that work really well together. On this basis, I create dishes that represent my food and my culture well, ”he says.
“When Jamaicans go to a foreign country the first thing they look for is their food, so I try to do everything right and make sure that when Jamaicans come to Australia and taste my food, it reminds them of home. And so far, I feel like I’ve made it. “
Images courtesy of Roderick Grant.
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Chicken Back Curry is an everyday classic Jamaican dish because of its flavors and affordability. In Australia this cut of chicken is rare, so any cut of chicken is fine.
For 4 people
- 2kg chicken back or alternative
- 3 tbsp Jamaican curry powder
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning
- 1 chopped medium onion
- 1 spring onion
- 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- vs. allspice
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 3 chopped potatoes
- ½ chopped scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 20 ml soya sauce
- 2 star anise
- Finely chopped fresh ginger
- Add the washed chicken to a large bowl.
- Add curry powder, all-purpose, paprika, soy and allspice.
- Carefully rub the seasoning into the chicken with your hands. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Over medium heat, pour the oil into a heavy-based saucepan.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken carefully to the pan, trying not to overcrowd.
- Brown each side of the chicken. Once fried, transfer it to your container.
- Once all the chicken pieces are golden, return to the pot with the onions, spring onions, garlic, thyme, cinnamon stick, star anise and Scotch Bonnet peppers. Stir for 2-3 minutes to release the flavor.
- Add water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Add the potatoes and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the potato is cooked. Add a little more water if the curry has reduced too much.
- Add salt to taste and serve.