Thursday, September 15, 2016

Brackenhurst Style Chicken Curry {AIP/ Paleo}



I was told recently that I have a lot of interesting stories. The funny thing is that because it's my life, I don't so much think of them as interesting as I simply think of them as stories. Earlier this week, I was walking by the beach with someone special, and doing what I love to do...tell stories. And that's when I came to realize that to me this blog is as much about sharing my life and having an avenue for telling stories as it is about the food. No, it's more about the food, but just barely.


Speaking of stories, let me tell you about a magical place called Brackenhurst. This idyllic throw back to the 'good old days' of life in Kenya, was my home for half of my fourth grade year and the location for annual conferences and retreats for the next eight years. Once a hotel during the days of British colonization, in my day it was a Baptist conference center that provided the amenities needed for a great conference along with the stuff of childhood adventures.


I could tell you stories of exploring the 'pirate's caves' (basement of the main building), or playing hide 'n' seek in the tea fields, or being attacked by safari ants, or playing violent games of 'American Eagles' on the lawn and being thrown into the rose bushes by a friend. Or I could share about the hours we sent just hanging out and chatting on those same lawns.

I could tell you of enjoying too many plums from a neighbors' tree while hiking in the forrest or passing notes after bedtime to our neighbor through a slit in the wall. 

Or, I could talk about building fires with green wood and getting smoked out or of sitting by the fireplace while my dad combed the tangles out of my hair before bedtime. 

I also have stories of chameleons and climbing too high on a tree, needing to be rescued and stories of falling off swings and my first babysitting experiences and late night card games. And on and on and on.

left- family pic 1985, top -hanging out with friends in high school, middle - our house in 4th grade, right- spirit day at school

BUT, all of those stories must wait for another day.

Today's story is about my favorite Brackenhurst meal. Once a week, the dining hall served their famous chicken curry and chapatis. Well, famous to those of us who loved the curry and chapatis. 


The chapatis were flaky and soft and perfect for dipping up the curry. The curry was mild, with just enough spice to help you know you were eating curry.

But, it wasn't the curry or the chapatis that really made this meal special. It was the bowls and bowls of toppings to add to the curry to make it your own. All along the middle of the table were toppings - pineapple, banana, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, chilies, coconut, peanuts, onions, raisins, etc. You could pile your plate high with curry and then customize it to your liking. Do you like sweet foods? Add all the fruits. Need more spice? Add the chilies and onions. Or, add it all for a full flavor experience. 

I mean, just check out the difference the toppings make...
Plain curry is good. Curry with toppings is GREAT!


 


In the 20+ years since I've eaten Brackenhurst curry, I've continued to make it a regular part of my life. I created a 'quick curry' recipe back in college that worked once all the toppings were added (but it used a can of cream of chicken soup). Then, a few years back, in my pre-AIP days I created a pretty good variation of this childhood memory...but it was full of nightshades.

Finally, after several attempts I managed to make a curry that brings back all the memories of Brackenhurst without the pain of all the nightshades....and come up with a full list of AIP compliant toppings for your curry eating pleasure.

This meal is simple enough for a weeknight dinner, fancy enough for guests and festive enough for a holiday. A few years back I referred to this meal as 'Christmas Curry.' I promise you won't be disappointed if you make this, and if you have little ones at home, they'll enjoy adding all the toppings...it makes a game out of dinner.


For a complete meal, pair this dish with some cauliflower rice or these totally AIP chapatis.

Chicken Curry {AIP/ Paleo}
Time: 45 minutes - 1 hour
           (depending on how many toppings you prepare)
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion - chopped
2 carrots - chopped
1/3 of a daikon (or 1/2 cup radishes) - chopped
1.5 teaspoon pink himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon garlic flakes
2 inch piece of ginger - peeled and chopped finely (or grated)
1 Tablespoon dried ginger powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 can of coconut milk
6 cups of chopped veggies - broccoli, asparagus, butternut, cauliflower - bite sized pieces
1 pound chicken - poached/ roasted
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lime

Method:
- heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat
- add chopped onion and saute for 3-4 minutes
- add carrot & daikon (or radishes) and continue cooking for a few minutes
- add salt, cinnamon, garlic ginger (fresh & dried) and turmeric and allow to cook until you smell the spices (2 minutes)
- add enough water to cover the veggies and simmer until the carrots and daikon are soft (15 minutes)
- if you don't have cooked chicken - use this time to poach a few chicken breasts - then cut them into bite sized pieces or shred. This recipe is a great way to use a chicken you roasted earlier in the week..or even a clean rotisserie chicken.
- once veggies are soft, add coconut milk and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Make sure you get all the little ginger pieces (no one wants to bite down on one of those)
- add 6 cups of vegetables (broccoli & asparagus is my favorite combo... also good with pumpkin, butternut & carrots.... and have used butternut, asparagus and cauliflower).... great way to clean out the produce drawer and allow veggies to cook until tender (depends on the veggie - but probably 10-15 minutes.
- add cooked chicken about 5 minutes before veggies are ready
- after cooking is finished, stir in chopped parsley and the juice of a lime. 

AIP Topping Options:
toasted coconut, raisins, pomegranate seeds, fresh mint, fresh parsley, fresh cilantro, pineapple, banana, mango, lime wedges, spring onions & chopped red onions.

Seafood/ Fish Variation:
If you want to make a seafood variation...
(1) make the sauce as is, except only the fresh ginger and no daikon
(2) use heartier vegetables to balance out the lightness of the seafood - pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli all work
(3) use 1/4 cup cilantro at the end instead of parsley and the juice of 2 lemons
(4) add raw seafood to the cooked sauce & veggies and allow to cook in the sauce - just a few minutes 
(5) the best toppings are the more tropical ones - pineapple, mango, herbs & coconut