I am very excited to share this delicious recipe with you, but even more excited to share the heartwarming story behind it. It starts with my friend and neighbor Laura, who loaned me her African cookbooks. Laura lived in Tanzania for a year after grad school where, in addition to her great collection of cookbooks, Laura acquired an intense devotion and care for the local people and their plight. Four years ago, Laura joined a fledging organization called “Nurturing Minds” that raises money to build and support the Sega Girls School in Tanzania. Much of my neighborhood has learned about this wonderful school and we now share Laura’s care and concern and have embraced this cause. So here’s a peek at the beautiful school and a little bit about why it’s so special.
Currently at the Sega Girls School in Morogoro, Tanzania there are 150 bright, highly motivated young girls who are on a path to success they could not have dreamed of a few years ago. They are from the poorest of families in one of the World’s poorest countries. Many are orphans. All of them were school dropouts, forced to give up on their educational pursuits due to extreme poverty and hardship. Then one day, news came to their village of an opportunity to apply for admission to a special boarding school. The girls who attend the Sega School don’t pay tuition. They are admitted based on a series of tests and interviews that confirm high intelligence, strong motivation to receive an education and a desperate level of financial need.
The Sega education goes beyond the classroom. They grow half of all the food they eat on campus and their school chores include tending the vegetable garden, caring for the chickens, and assisting the chef. By the way, the chicken farming is something new and interesting – part of an initiative to start small businesses on the property that will both serve to support the school financially and also teach the girls business skills.
I hope you enjoy this delicious coconut chicken with East African flavors, and if you want to know more about Sega School for Girls, visit the Nurturing Minds website: http://www.nurturingmindsinafrica.org
- ¼ cup oil (sunflower, olive or canola)
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 3 tablespoons very finely chopped or grated fresh ginger (2 inch piece)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from a can)
- 4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (about 12 thighs), skin removed & trimmed of fat
- 2 jalapeno peppers (seeds and membranes discarded), finely chopped
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
- Lemon wedges (to serve on the side)
- Toppings (choose your favorites)
- ½ cup chopped peanuts
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup raisins
- Sliced bananas browned in a little butter
- Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onions and cook 5-7 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 20 seconds. Add dry spices and stir for 20 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and chicken thighs. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes to cook spices and flavor the chicken. Add coconut milk and chopped jalapeños. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let chicken sit for a few minutes. Excess fat will rise to the surface and you can skim some of it off with a spoon.
- Serve in deep bowls with basmati rice, lemon wedges and an assortment of toppings. Enjoy!