Floyd on Africa, 224pp.
by Keith Floyd
Michael Joseph, Penguin Group, London, 1996
Cooking on page 32
Keith Floyd swanned through five African countries—Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, South Africa and Lesotho—in the mid-1990s.
He hoped to gather a bag full of recipes, but in the end he had to admit that ‘there isn’t any food in Africa.’ The place, he says, ‘abounds with exotic produce’ but that most food in Africa is available to the wealthy.
We found this to be true in 2009 when we spent almost a year travelling through more than half of the continent’s countries.
So in creating a television program about his food journey in Africa, Floyd didn’t gather recipes—he couldn’t. Instead he explored and shopped in the markets and then created recipes that he figured were representative.
He created this dish at the Tongabezi Lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia.
Tongabezi chicken curry
2 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash
4 large chicken joints, halved
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
15g (1/2 oz) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
6 cardamom seeds
1 heaped teaspoon curry powder
450ml (1/4 pint) chicken stock
2 sticks lemon grass, bruised
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
300ml (1/2 pint) yogurt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
Parboil the sweet potatoes in their skins for about 10 minutes, then peel and cut into thick slices. Cut the squash into similar-sized pieces.
Season the chicken pieces. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the chicken for about 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Add the onions to the pan and cook gently until soft, then add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cardamom and curry powder and cook for a few minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock and lemon grass, then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat a little more vegetable oil in another pan and fry the pieces of sweet potatoes and squash over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until slightly golden and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Keep warm.
When the chicken is cooked, add the chopped chillies to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or so. Stir in the yogurt and heat through without boiling. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with the sautéed sweet potatoes and squash.
How it played out
Without having the luxury of visiting a colourful and lively African market, I made this as written, using four large chicken marylands (a cut with a thigh and leg) that I separated into pieces. Seemed totally fitting to serve it with another page-32 recipe of Spanish-inspired roasted vegetables.
The flavour was lovely, but there was an overwhelming glut of sweet potato and squash (or pumpkin, as we call it in Australia). So much so that I used the excess pieces to make soup the next day.
I can imagine that an African cook would make a similar recipe with one chicken maryland, or perhaps with no chicken at all. You have to remember that a slaughtered chicken doesn’t lay eggs.