Fink’s favourite curry

Durban curry with a difference.

Once a year, at about this time, the McFarlane household plays host to dear friend, fellow journalist and writer-about-wine, Nicola Jenvey.

Nicola hails from Durban, where she flies the flag of South African wine high and proud, and her annual odyssey to the Winelands – now the 18th in a row – is to attend the Nederburg Wine Auction, and in the more recent past, the triennial Cape Wine.

Aside from having a formidable palate, Nicola is also a formidable cook, and when it comes to the food standard of Durban – curry dishes – she is in the pantheon reserved for those who have curry in their DNA.

Nicola made a curry for us the night after she arrived, one that she knows well, because the recipe is in Erica Platter’s magnificent Durban Curry: So Much of Flavour, a copy of which Nicola gave to dear sweet Elspeth for her birthday last year.

The book is a delight, authored by Erica, with Devi Sankaree Govender as contributing editor, and photography, design and layout by Clinton Friedman.

The book is simply organised into a number of categories – beans; Bunny Chow, duck; chicken; lamb, mutton, trotters and beef; seafood; vegetarian; pickles and spices; sides; spices and masalas; and the important matter of drinks that pair with curry. The provenance of the recipes varies widely, from the Delights Serva Curry out of the Durban Women’s Cultural Group’s Indian Delights recipe book, to many famous South African chef’s favourite recipes, to Fink’s Fragrant Curry, cooked up by legal eagle Fink (Nicholas) Haysom, a Durban boy who had a hand in drafting our constitution, and has played a key role in trouble spots around the world, most recently UN special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

Erica tells me the book, a Gourmand World Cookbook 2015 award winner, is in its third printing and nearly sold out, so if you like a really good Durban curry, go find a copy.

Nicola chose to make Fink’s Favourite Curry, and she brought with her a host of special ingredients and masalas, some for this dish, and the rest to stock our larder. What follows is Nicola’s take on Fink’s recipe, with a couple of her own twists.

Ingredients, selection and preparation

Half a large chicken: cut into pieces or a whole chicken cut into pieces if not using prawns

200g prawns: peeled and deveined

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

2 medium onions: roughly diced

5 garlic cloves: crushed

Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed

3T sunflower oil

1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon

15 green cardamom pods

10 whole cloves

10 black peppercorns or 1 tsp black pepper

3 whole dried red chillies or 2 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 large tomatoes: chopped

1 small tin of tomato paste (3 tbsp)

¼ cup plain yoghurt

4 medium potatoes: peeled and quartered (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves


Remove the skin from the chicken (worth the extra time).

Place the chicken in a bowl and toss with the turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt.

In a pot, heat the oil and fry the onion, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, ground red chillies, coriander seeds and cumin until fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic, if using as separate ingredients.

If you use a premix chilli, ginger and garlic paste, it is added with the dry spices.

Add the chicken and cook for about 10 minutes to brown the meat.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, chopped potatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer partially covered until the chicken is cooked – about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the sauce from sticking. Add the yoghurt, one tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add the prawns and cook uncovered to reduce and thicken the sauce and heat through the prawns.

Season with salt and sprinkle with the fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with rotis, chopped tomato, onion and chilli sambal, and diced cucumber and yoghurt sambal.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings