Small farmer & owner of Cindy’s Fresh Produce
Which came first? Never mind. What is more important is the deliciousness of this pairing in a curry, and its thriftiness. Cindy Valayadam is a small farmer and owner of Cindy’s Fresh Produce in the sugar-farming village of Umhlali. She makes the finest array of pickles and preserves on the coast, and legendary curries, bunnies and biryanis. She caters for events great and small (arranging the flowers, too), starting her cooking day at 4am before travelling a few kilometres to open the shop. Where she presides behind the counter, surrounded by her sister’s samoosas, chilli bites, cigarettes, sweets and lottery tickets, all day every day of the year. Hard-working does not begin to describe Cindy. Her family on both sides (Singhs and Padayachees) worked in the sugar farming industry; now Cindy and husband Bala grow the best vegetables in the area along the N2 highway, protected by a vast and motley array of four-legged security guards: “Bala,” Cindy sighs, “he is addicted to dogs.”
Cindy’s curries have an international reputation. “I have a customer who goes round the world trying curries, and he is very kind, he says nobody else can compete!” She is often called from OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg by visiting foodies: “We’re boarding the next plane to King Shaka, Durban. Which curry can we take away for our first holiday dinner?”
Her own freshly ground curry powder, which lifts a simple tin of beans to new heights, stars in this family favourite dish. We have given up trying to coax the recipe out of her: it remains Top Secret. But we can reveal she grinds up, in a weird and wonderful 3 legged contraption standing in her kitchen, a mixture of fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon sticks, black and green elachi (cardamom), ground cumin and coriander and “a couple of fresh chillies”.
Last touch: fresh curry leaves, which lurk about aromatically in the tubs we buy, and buy.
Cindy’s Chicken & Egg Curry
¼ cup oil
2 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 large onion
1sprig curry leaf
1 sprig thyme
1Tbsp ginger and garlic, crushed
4Tbsp Cindy’s (or other, fine) curry powder
1tsp turmeric powder
4 medium jam tomatoes
2kg chicken pieces
4 potatoes, cut into quarters
Enough oil to deep fry potatoes
Hardboiled eggs, shelled, halved
Fresh dhania/coriander leaves
Heat ¼ cup oil in pan. Add dry spices, then onion, curry leaf and thyme. Cook until onions are lightly golden . Add ginger and garlic and powdered spices. Allow the mixture to simmer for no more, preferably less, than 1 min. Then add tomatoes. Cook until mixture develops to a paste consistency. Add chicken pieces and salt, cook 30 mins. Deep-fry potatoes. Add to chicken. Cook for 10 mins. Add halved eggs, cook another 5 mins. Garnish with fresh coriander before serving.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE