Cape Chicken and Potato Curry

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A random conversation on Facebook recently – about the differences between Cape Malay and Indian curries – ignited a massive craving for an old-fashioned Cape chicken curry. Yeah, I’m cheap like that – everything makes me hungry, you know, especially chatting to strangers about food on the Internet.

Many of my Facebook friends are brilliant cooks, and the photos they share of their home-style cooking often have me salivating and ready to munch my screen. In particular, there is a very yellow, turmeric-tinted chicken and potato curry that has been practically begging me to make it for weeks now. It’s the kind of thing your mom would have made when you were little – not too hot, with a very subtle and mellow blend of spices and a thinnish gravy, served with a pile of fluffy, steaming hot white rice and a few sambals.

The recipe I was after though was not a traditional Cape Malay one, nor an Indian one. It’s a generic kind of curry recipe, and you can crank the spice-o-meter up according to your own taste. This version is known as Cape Chicken curry, a boerekos recipe, and it differs a bit from the traditional Cape Malay curries we all know and love. It has added turmeric for that glorious, blazing buttercup yellow hue, and as you’re using a mild curry powder, very little heat. Quick and easy to make, too. I use chicken thighs and drumsticks for this, with perhaps one or two wings added for extra flavour. Since you’re cooking the meat on the bone, your sauce will have added richness and depth of flavour.

Cape Malay curries are generally less pungent and fiery than Indian curries, and also a little sweeter. I also think the use of turmeric is generally more pronounced in Cape Malay curries. The version of Indian curry that we South Africans are familiar with, or Durban curry as it is known, stems predominantly from the south of India, whence most of the indentured labourers sent to Natal originally came from. This region’s cooking makes lavish use of coconut milk.

The recipe below was adapted from one in Dine van Zyl’s magisterial Boerekos compendiums, Die Groot Boerekos Kookboek 1 and 2 – books to treasure and cook from every day, and to read for the beautiful storytelling too! Click here to read Dine’s lovely, informative blog.


Serves 6


1.5 kg chicken portions, except breast, preferably bone-in

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 T (15 ml) grated fresh ginger

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 T (30 ml) sunflower oil or ghee

1 T (15 ml) jam apricot jam

1 T (15 ml) mild curry powder (although Dine’s original recipe uses only 2 t (10 ml)

1 t (5 ml) turmeric

1 cinnamon stick or 2 pieces of cassia

8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1/2 t (2.5 ml) ground coriander

2 t (10 ml) salt

4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/4 cup (90 ml) boiling water

fresh coriander, for garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and brown the chicken pieces lightly over medium heat. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Next cook the garlic, ginger and onion together in the same pot until the onion is soft and translucent. Be careful not to let it brown or burn, which will turn it bitter and you’ll have to start all over again!
  3. Add the apricot jam, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon or cassia, cardamom, coriander and salt, stir well and add the meat.
  4. Pack the potato chunks around the meat, pour in the boiling water and put the lid on. Cook over very low heat for 30-30 minutes, until chicken and potato are tender. If your sauce looks a bit watery, turn the heat up and let it bubble fiercely for 5-10 minutes to reduce and thicken.
  5. Now add some hot rice, sambals and a garnish of fresh coriander leaves and you’re all set for a marvellous feast!

To make your own mild curry powder, simply follow the recipe below – easy, cheap and you get to tailor it to your own tastebuds!


Makes about 150 ml. Far superior to a commercial blend. To make a hotter masala, simply increase the quantity of cayenne to 2 t (10ml).


Whole spices:

2 T (30ml) coriander seeds

1 T (15ml) cumin seeds

6 cardamom pods, dehusked

1 T (15ml) yellow mustard seeds

2 t (10ml) fennel seeds

1 t (5ml) cloves

½ t (2,5ml) black peppercorns

Ground spices:

1 t (5ml) ground cinnamon

½ t (2,5ml) cayenne pepper

1 T (15ml) ground ginger

2 ½ T (37,5ml) ground turmeric


  1. Grind whole spices finely in grinder and sieve to remove coarse bits.
  2. Mix throughly with ground spices and store in a clean, dry glass jar with tight-fitting lid. Keeps up to 3 months.
Easy Cape Chicken and Potato Curry with kumquat atjar
Easy Cape Chicken and Potato Curry with kumquat atjar
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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.