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Are you Keen for Curry?

August 6, 2015


Not so long ago, the only lettuce you could buy from the supermarket was iceberg; Coffee was instant and buying water in a bottle was unheard of!

Boy, things have changed! How lucky that we live in such an interesting and progressive time where the major influences in our eating habits over the last 30 or so years, have been tourism, migration and wealth.

I can remember my parents making coconut milk from desiccated coconut with a tea towel as coconut milk in a can was not available – haven’t we have come full circle?! As a three year old, I vaguely remember my Chinese grandmother hacking up a whole chicken on the kitchen floor with a cleaver – she was less familiar with bench-tops – and using Keen’s curry powder to make a Nonya curry as it was the only curry powder available in Melbourne at the time.

Fast forward 15 years and curried sausages were all the go. Thickened with flour and garnished with peas, curried sausages were the staple of many a dinner table. Yuk! I hated them, sorry mum!!

Curry powder is indeed a British invention. It is a blend of different powdered spices like turmeric, chilli, coriander, cumin, fennel, and cinnamon.  In India there is no such thing as curry powder! The Tamil word “Kari” simply means either vegetables (“kai kari”) or meat. But individual spices, fresh or dried, were hard to source not so long ago and as inauthentic as curry powder is, it is convenient. Nowadays you can get some really lovely blends, specific to a certain dish. I have a few different blends here and here. Having a basic blend on hand is great for making quick dishes with great curry flavour.

Do you remember Keen’s Curry powder? I didn’t realise that it was as Aussie an invention as Vegemite!

In 1841, 22-year-old carpenter Joseph Keen sailed to Tasmania from Britain and became a father of 16.  He established a bakery, small manufacturing outlet and a general store where he produced and sold his own sauces including his own special blend of curry powder.

Within a decade, Joseph’s curry powder was known throughout the colony and his produce was winning awards: he received a medal for his spice mix at the 1866 Inter-Colonial Exhibition in Melbourne and an honourable mention for his spicy sauce at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition.

In 1915, after Joseph had died, the couple’s daughter, Louisa, took over the family’s curry-powder business. Her husband Horace was a colourful character, who daringly transformed land at the foothills of Mount Wellington, overlooking Hobart, into a large advertising sign: using heavy stones painted white, he formed the words ‘Keen’s Curry’ in letters 15 metres high. Public uproar resulted, but Horace won the right to use the land as an advertising sign. While renowned in Tasmania, Keen’s Curry Powder became a household name right across Australia – more than a century after Joseph set sail from England.

In 1998,  the Keen’s Curry brand were acquired by McCormick Foods Australia Pty Ltd.

Upon deciphering the label, I have concocted my own version of Keen’s curry powder (without the fillers); a version that’s handy to have as a base.

My Own Keen’s Curry Powder

25g coriander seeds

1 teas black peppercorns

½ teas fenugreek seeds

1 teas dried chilli flakes

1 teas allspice powder

1 teas celery seeds

1 teas salt

25g turmeric powder

Mill the seeds, pepper and chilli with the salt on SP 9 for 1 minute. Place a paper towel in between the MC and lid to stop curry powder from escaping. Add the turmeric and mix on SP 3 to combine. Store tightly sealed in a glass jar.

This Malaysian chicken curry is a recipe that my Dad has been making since time began! He used to use Keen’s curry powder until he graduated to his favourite curry powder, Bolsts, when it became available (in Australia) in the early 90’s. I like to use a whole chicken in the style of my grandmother. She used to chop it up (chop – chop Chinese style – bones everywhere!) and stew it in a saucepan. I like to slow roast it whole, as it keeps the whole bird moist and succulent this way. It’s also a good way to warm up the house on these chilly winter days – filling the house with spicy heady aromas – which are a turn on for my husband!! (Chocolate and cake work better for me!!)

Curry leaves are optional but they do impart a lovely extra dimension of flavour

Curry leaves are optional but they do impart a lovely extra dimension of flavour

Slow Roasted Whole Chicken Curry

40g + 40g coconut oil

1.8-2 kg whole chicken

8 cloves garlic, bruised

2 onions, sliced

2 tabs curry powder

1 teas cumin

1 teas garam masala

1 teas salt

1 tab rapadura sugar

2 teas turmeric

20 fresh curry leaves (optional)

600g chicken stock

400g coconut cream

In a large saucepan, brown the whole chicken in 40g coconut oil. Set aside. Using the same pan, add the remaining 40g oil and sauté the garlic, onions, home-made curry powder, cumin, garam masala, salt, turmeric & fresh curry leaves. Add the chicken, breast side down, and pour over the stock and coconut cream.

Cover the pot loosely in foil and bake in a slow oven 150°C for 2 hours. Season with extra sugar and salt if required. Serve on cauliflower rice or rice.

Notes: This can be done in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high. I like to do this as a whole bird but drumsticks or Marylands work well and take less time to cook.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. crescentmoonramblings permalink
    August 7, 2015 6:23 pm

    Sarah you are a font of knowledge. I would never have guessed Keen’s was an Aussie icon. I am keen 😄 to put together your version. Thanks heaps.

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