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Chicken Colombo

Like the Hindu temple near Capesterre, Guadeloupe, the curry mixture called colombo is a legacy of indentured servants who came here from coastal India in the last century. Since then colombo has taken a bit from the French and a bit from the African to become truly Creole.

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  • Servings: 4-6

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  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium chayote, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, pricked with a fork
  • Boiled white rice, for serving


  1. In a small skillet, toast the coriander, allspice, cumin and peppercorns over moderately high heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool, then finely grind in a spice grinder or mortar. Stir in the turmeric.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in the oil. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat without turning, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the chicken and add the onion, scallions and shallot. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the chicken is browned, about 4 minutes. Add the ground spices and the garlic, parsley and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 2 cups of water to just cover the chicken. Simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chayote, eggplant and chile and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Boil the stew over moderately high heat until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Discard the thyme. Return the chicken to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and serve with rice.
Contributed By Published September 1996

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