Over a delicious chicken curry at the recent Indian inspired Community Kitchen lunch, Ashwin Patel shared his migration story and how he came to be a cook.
Laith, Roopa, Mr Patel
In 1972, under the orders of the new Ugandan President Idi Amin, Mr Patel’s family together with 80,000 other Asians who were mostly born and raised in Uganda, were given 90 days to leave the country.
“Although not refugees by the UNHCR definition, we had to leave everything we owned behind. We left the country with 50 (English) pounds in our pockets,” said Mr Patel.
“It was a very sad and traumatic time for us, but we were lucky to be British citizens and be able to settle quickly in a new country.”
Mr Patel, together with many hundreds of other Indian Ugandans settled in Leicester, in the East Midlands of England.
Mr Patel said that they quickly created a community organisation so that they could stay connected and help each other, and to also help maintain their culture and traditions.
“A committee of volunteers was formed to help do the maintenance work that was needed in the community centre and cook for festival and celebrations,” he said.
“Cooking was a hobby of mine so I chose to volunteer in the kitchen.”
Soon Mr Patel was cooking for hundreds of people at Diwali celebrations, weddings and other community events.
In Australia this month visiting his daughter Roopa who works in SSI’s People & Culture team, Mr Patel kindly volunteered to cook chicken curry, assisted by Roopa.
Chicken Curry Recipe
500g chicken breast (skinned and cut into roughly 2cm cubes)
2 finely chopped large brown onions
1 can of crushed tomatoes (blend into a puree)
4tbsp Cooking oil
1-2 fresh green chilli (chopped if you want to make a hotter curry)
2-3 tsp chopped coriander
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
½ tsp cumin seeds
4-5 black peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
1 dry red chilli
In a medium saucepan, heat oil and fry all the whole spices until they turn slightly darker (but be careful not to burn them).
Add the finely chopped onions into the saucepan, and on a medium flame stir the onions till they turn golden brown
Once golden brown, add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for a further minute on a low flame stirring constantly. If it sticks to the pan add 1 tbsp of water.
Add all the ground and fresh green chilies if you want more heat. Stir the spices for 1 minute. Add the blended tomatoes and cook on medium flame stirring constantly until the oil starts to separate from the curry.
Now add the chicken pieces into the saucepan and turn the flame on high to seal the chicken.
Once sealed turn the flame down to medium-low and cover the saucepan with a lid. Then simmer for ten minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Add fresh chopped fresh coriander as a garnish and serve with either basmati rice or naan bread.
(Cook’s Tip-Mr Patel adds one crushed chicken stock cube to the curry to enhance the flavour!)