I thought it would be good to follow up my post on curry powder with that most scrumptious curried recipe — Chicken Curry. I know curry powder works with other meats but something about chicken just shines through when it’s curried.
My family is blessed to get a monthly ration of native, free-roaming chicken from my husband’s family’s plot of land in Siquijor. Every month or so, for many years now, our Auntie Nelia has been faithfully sending us one or two chickens from a brood of chickens that she has been keeping so lovingly for years.
I’ve spent quite a lot of thought on animal food ever since I have noted the loving way our beloved Auntie has been taking care of her chickens (why, she calls them by names!). I’ve also thought about kosher, the Jewish way of preparing food from animals. Jewish laws and customs are probably the most animal-friendly you could find on the whole planet. Did you know that whereas we slaughter animals with abandon, the Jews have been practicing — for centuries — an almost painless way of slaughtering animals?
Under Kosher guidelines, an especially-trained professional gently ushers the animal to death — yes, there’s a gentle way to do that! There’s a long list of guidelines he must adhere to, but the end point is that he uses a very sharp knife to cut — swiftly, with only one swipe — the main arteries, veins and nerves in the neck of the animal. Death comes to the animal so suddenly that there is no writhing and agony involved. Life is over even before the animal has realized and felt it. That’s a pretty good way to die, right?
This is said to render the meat more healthful as the blood is free from all those hormones that are secreted when the animal is afraid or stressed. I contrast this with the gruesome and hideous way we kill our animals during feasts — when pitiful bleatings and nightmare-inducing writhings seem to be the norm.
Aside from this non-stressful way of killing animals for food, it also helps that animals have lived happy lives prior to their death. Think of a caged hen who looks out longingly from her prison to that free pasture which she has been designed to roam. Think of her frustration, loneliness and her boredom. What stress hormones could be circulating in her bloodstream because of her confinement? On top of that, she gets sickly due to lack of oxygen and exercise and the poor quality of synthetic feeds she is forced to subsist on. Consequently, she must be injected with antibiotics to keep her alive, as well as egg-laying chemicals to keep her prolific. You can count on her meat to be laden with harmful chemicals as well.
Now contrast that with another chicken that is free to roam, hop about and forage for the best foods she wants — live worms, different kinds of grains and seeds. She is bathed with sunshine the whole day which keeps her meat naturally rich in Vitamin D. She gets lots of oxygen and exercise, and fellowship, too, with her fellow chickens. Or her brood of chicks. Or with her loving Mistress. How happy she must be, and how full of happy hormones her blood must be.
I don’t want to romanticize chickens and animals. They are given to us as food by our Creator, and we can use them the way we see fit, but I think we can learn a thing or two from the Jews. Keep animals happy while they’re alive and make their passage through the valley of death brief and painless. It would be good for them, and their meat becomes a lot more healthful for us.
Okay, enough yak and here’s the Chicken Curry recipe, made with happy, healthy chicken that has been free to roam in a peaceful place in Siquijor all her happy life.
- Serves 8 to 10
- Prep time: about 10 minutes
- Cooking time: about 1 hour
Ingredients: (Click on the links for the health benefits of each ingredient.)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 big red onion
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger
- a knot of fresh lemongrass
- about 10 pieces of green chili pepper (fewer if you want)
- 2 big red bell pepper
- meat of one whole native chicken
- 2 tablespoons of curry powder
- salt and pepper
- 3 medium-sized potatoes cut into chunks
- a bundle of chili leaves (dahon ng sili)
- fresh coconut milk from one coconut
- Heat coconut oil in a deep and wide wok. Saute the herbs in the following order: garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass and green chili pepper.
- Add in the chicken meat and season with curry powder, salt and pepper. Cover and let chicken cook until the juices come out. Stir every so often and let it simmer in its juice until it dries out and gets browned.
- Add enough water to cover the meat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and let it simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour, or more if the chicken is older and tougher.
- Add in the potato chunks and simmer for about 7 minutes more.
- Add in the red bell pepper and the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and adjust the taste with more salt or curry powder if needed.
- Add in the chili leaves and simmer on for about 2 minutes or less.
You can certainly use non-organic chicken instead of native chicken, evaporated or fresh milk instead of coconut milk and then other leaves (or no leaves at all) instead of chili leaves, but my recipe really is a lot healthier the way it is. Try it.