It Never Hurts to Curry Flavor


It feels like it did nothing but rain for my last six days off. The upside of this is that it gave me the time (too wet to work in the garden), to try some dishes that I have always wanted to try but never got around to.

One of these is “Country Captain” – a chicken dish that was said to have been introduced to the South by a sea captain in the spice trade. It is popular in the lowlands in South Carolina and Georgia.

The research that I have done on the dish indicates that it is very old. It is in cookbooks from the 1840s and ’50s – both in America and England.

It also appears in a cookbook titled “East Indian Cooking” from the 20th century, which probably indicates the country of origin, because a “country captain” in India was a British officer of native troops.

It is basically a chicken curry that’s easy to make, beautiful to look at and even better to eat.

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Country Captain

6 skinless chicken breasts
2 ½ cups medium chop onion
1 cup small chop celery
2 cups small chop green pepper
1 tablespoon diced garlic
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (reserve the juice)
2 tablespoons curry
½ cup raisins
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
3 slices good quality bacon

Cut the chicken into medium pieces, sprinkle with thyme and pepper, then brown in a large frying pan with ¼ cup oil.

After the chicken is browned, put aside and drain the oil.

Add the bacon to the pan and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon and save the fat.

Cook the onions in the fat until translucent.

Next add the celery and the green pepper. Cook until it starts to get soft. Add the garlic and cook three minutes more.

Add the two cups of tomatoes and ¾ of a cup of the tomato juice that was reserved from the can.  Cook for 10 minutes at a simmer.

Add the raisins and curry powder and the bay leaves. Simmer for a half hour in a tightly covered pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When done, place half the sauce in a covered casserole, add a layer of chicken, more sauce, then another layer of sauce. Place a layer of tinfoil over the pot, then put on the lid and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1½ hours or until the chicken is tender. Remove from the oven and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

This dish is really superb and I wish that I had tried it long ago. One thing for sure, I will keep it in my cooking repertoire. Yummers!

Lee Riggs is a Zen priest living in Shasta County who cooked and baked for many years at San Francisco Zen Center.  He is a devoted gardener. His simple credo is that butter is better and that you should be able to taste the hops in beer.

is a Zen priest living in Shasta County who cooked and baked for many years at San Francisco Zen Center. He is a devoted gardener. His simple credo is that butter is better and that you should be able to taste the hops in beer.

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Karen C says:

    How important, do you think, raisins are to this dish? I prefer golden raisins, would they still work as well?

    Thanks in advance

    • Avatar lee riggs says:

      Hi Karen:

      I think raisins are important in this dish. Golden raisins would work fine. My general rule for recipes I haven"t tried is stay close to the original, then deviate.There are many exceptions to this general rule two being: 1. You can't obtain one or two of the ingredients.2. There is an ingredient that you absolutely hate. Then go for it that is how food evolves.

  2. Avatar Linda Masterson says:

    There seems to be a lot curry – is this recipe medium or hot? We love curry and I will certainly try this but just curious. I've ordered dishes in restaurants before and had the top of my head melt off. Sounds yummy otherwise.


    • Avatar lee riggs says:

      Hi Linda:

      I found this recipe to be mediium although I confess I like spicy foods. One thing I found out while cooking for groups of people that tolerances for heat varies greatly. What I would suggest is use half the amount of curry in the sauce then after 15 minutes taste and adjust.. That said I still find it to be medium. If you try it let me know how you rate the heat level. It is a great dish.


  3. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    This reminds me of the curries my mom used to make. We always felt so exotic enjoying such wonderful food! She served these with chutney and chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro. Love seeing you explore some of these types of dishes. Thank you!

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Wow! That's good. Is there a way to create such a masterpiece without so much cooking time? I'm so frugal that I count energy use into the cost of a dish.

  5. Avatar lee riggs says:

    HI Joanne:

    Not any that I Know of. Some things require a long cooking time. To me it is being frugal preparing a well made dish that taste delicious rather than trying to cut too many corners and creating something less satisfactory. I am a definite fan of the slow food movement. Although I do like a little fast food now and then.