Posts filed under curries

President Andrew Johnson's One Pot Chicken Pilau

The Johnson’s were like the Beverly Hillbillies, with a far less likeable cast.  Johnson did have a rag to (modest) riches story. Raised by his widowed mom in a log cabin in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was sent to apprentice at the tailor shop at age ten, robbing him of the chance to attend school.  In fact, he was the only person on a Presidential ticket who was virtually illiterate until adulthood (Sarah Palin got so close to being the second). At 18 he moved to Greenville, Tennessee, married, had 5 children, and got into politics. His humble beginnings got him elected to Congress, then into the Governor’s mansion, and on to the Senate. Even though he was a Democrat and an anti-abolitionist, he had not agreed with the South’s secession from the get-go and Lincoln found him to be a suitable Veep for the “National Union Party” ticket during his reelection campaign.

When Lincoln was assassinated and Johnson took office, it became clear just how much everyone didn’t like him. The South thought he was a traitor, the North thought he was a traitor and everyone thought he was a drunk (the third is perhaps the least true of all).  Apparently the doctor had given him a dose of whiskey to cure his typhoid tummy before he was sworn in as Vice President and he was tipsy (not in a cute way) and slurring his words throughout the ceremony… not a stellar debut.  While in office, a series of arguments over reconstruction efforts led him to be the First President that Congress attempted to impeach. He was saved by one vote.

When it came to entertaining, his daughter Martha picked up the slack as his wife, Eliza, suffered from TB (she did make some appearances at dinner). Martha, was a smart one, and the anchor of the family.  She managed expectations by saying “We are plain people from Tennessee called here for a little time by the nation’s calamity and I hope too much will not be expected of us.” Well people expected squirrel stew and good ole Martha outdid herself, earning serious entertaining credibility. She pinched pennies, while updating the décor, overseeing her kitchen, and hosting pretty tasting looking spreads.  She was homely and welcoming, traits craved by folks still reeling from the Dark Times. One dinner that is often highlighted was when they entertained the Queen of the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii).  The menus were sturdy Southern fare, and President Johnson actually enjoyed eating.

In light of the Johnson’s Carolina lineage and affinity for “simple food” we shant use more than one pot. The one pot meal has inundated our social media newsfeeds and it took me no time to come around to the genius of it all as my apartment has no dishwasher (gasp). Pilau, often called Perlo in the low country of the Carolinas, has the consistency of a jambalaya and is rich in flavor. The addition of the curry (or saffron if you have the cash for it) makes this version a bit bolder and more like its cousin, the Indian chicken biryani pilau. Oh how beautifully unifying food is- no matter where you are in the world there is never a chicken rice dish too far away. Perhaps a chef should be President?

One Pot Chicken Pilau

Adapted from: The Presidents Cookbook

·         4 chicken breasts

·         3 slices bacon, chopped

·         Olive oil

·         Salt and Pepper

·         1 large onion, cut in rings

·         1 large red pepper, cut in rings

·         ½ cup raisins

·         ½ cup slivered almonds

·         1 Tbsp saffron (or curry)

·         2 cups rice

·         4 cups chicken Stock

·         parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a heavy skillet, cook 3 slices of chopped bacon.  Once cooked, remove bacon and put on paper towels. Add chicken breast to fat (seasoned with salt and pepper). Brown. When browned, remove and put to side with bacon. 

In the same pot over medium heat, add a glug of olive oil. Add the onion, pepper, curry/saffron and cook, until the onion is translucent (7 mins). Add the chicken and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Stir in the rice. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through the cooking time. When you stir, add the raisins.

Remove the pot from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Top with parsely and slivered almonds.


·         If you are using curry powder, I would omit the bacon and olive oil to brown the chicken instead.

·         You can always add more veggies during that stage. Okra and collard greens work wonders.



Posted on February 16, 2016 and filed under curries, main event, sides, time travel.

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with Coconut Rice

Sri Lanka

Anthony, Catherine, Rosy, and I landed in Colombo about midnight and hopped in a cab to Galle (a good two hours away). Assured by our friends in Singapore that Sri Lanka is heaven, we braved the road with our clearly insane driver. It turns out he is in excellent company; a large portion of drivers have little interest in road signs, speed limits, or random villagers walking alongside.

We finally reached Galle under the cover of darkness and proceeded to sleep in two rooms at the villa (I had only booked one) only to be awoken by a tour group at four am. Oh goodness… not a great start but the excellent news follows: Galle is indeed a magical colonial forted town, complete with exquisite hotels (google Amangalla), shops, and tasty sit-downs. We spent our first meal at a rooftop restaurant eating spicy fish curries (Sri Lankans LOVE a chili) and drinking large local beers.  The next two days were spent eating spicy curries and condiments on the beach in Mirissa (note the consistency).

We all left equally obsessed with the place and disheartened that it is destined to turn in to another Bali (covered in Marriotts, Hiltons, and the like). Before this happens, I would love to return and take the train to the mountains for a romp around the tea plantations. 

Prawn curry

Recipe...for 4

½ tsp fenugreek seeds 
½ tsp mustard seeds 
½ tsp coriander seeds 
½ tsp fennel seeds 
6 curry leaves 
½ tsp turmeric 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
2 green chillis, chopped 
½ cinnamon stick 
200 ml/7 fl oz coconut milk 
100ml/3.5 fl oz crushed tomato 
450g/16fl oz raw, peeled shrimp/prawns
8 okra (lady fingers), sliced 
Coriander (cilantro) and lime wedges, to dress

Toast the fenugreek, mustard, coriander and fennel seeds in k a dry frying pan over a low heat until they release their aroma. Tip them into a mortar and roughly grind with a pestle.

Place the ground spices and all the remaining ingredients (including okra) except for the shrimp into a large saucepan. Pour in 200 ml/7 fl oz coconut milk and 100ml/3.5 fl oz crushed tomatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes then season.

Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5 min  until they are just cooked through. Dress with coriander (cilantro) and lime

Coconut Rice:
The easiest way to make coconut rice is to boil jasmine rice with water, combined with coconut water (half and half). Rinse rice in cold water before you start and fluff when finished.



Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under curries, main event, world travel.

Nepal: Dal Bhat


One of my best friends, Rosy, and I made the decision in January of this year to be outdoor girls. To give Rosy some credit, she had spent lots of time in Africa hiking etc.. I was the weakest link by a mile and a half. In order to prove our skills, we settled on training for a couple of months and booked a hike through the Himalayas.

The training never happened unless hand to mouth is considered a bicep curl but the tickets were confirmed and we had enough enthusiasm to scale Everest. We flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara on Yeti airlines (don't get me started) and began our ascent... five hours a day, steps all the way. We stopped for lunch and rest at little tea houses, vowing to eat what the Nepali people eat. Well its seems they only eat one thing: dal bhat. Yes, the sides vary (curry potatoes, greens, chutneys) and the quality varies greatly but in the end, a lentil is a lentil... and I love them. Lentils, along with multiple bags of Jolly Ranchers, gave us the energy to reach the summit. 

So hearty, this dish is perfect for a cold night and, unlike the versions we had in Nepal, can be eaten without a side of Pepto. Perfect.   

*Travel note: If you are in the market for a Himalayan guide, Binod is the best! If he can deal with us, he can deal with anyone.. check out his packages at* 



RECIPE: (2 large servings)


  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • small knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 fresh red chili, to taste
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup yellow lentils (presoak as intructed)
  • 3 cups low sodium veggie stock
  • 1 glug veg oil
  • salt, to taste




-heat oil, add onion, ginger, and garlic. sweat on low until glassy. 

-add spices (garam masala, cumin, and tumeric. stir. add soaked lentils. stir to combine. 

-add broth and cook on low until tender.. should be around 30 min. 

-while it is cooking, cook rice as instructed.

-plate and top with chopped cilantro and chilis (to taste). Serve with chutney.  


Posted on October 27, 2013 and filed under curries, main event, world travel.