What’s cooking today: Chicken and red fig curry

What’s cooking today: Chicken and red fig curry
Tony Jackman’s chicken and red fig curry served in bowls by Mervyn Gers Ceramics. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

We think of dried fruit as being distinctly South African, having been a part of the Cape food culture in particular for hundreds of years. But North African cuisines are rife with them too, not least Morocco where dried figs and dates in particular grace many a tagine.

Chicken thighs and dried fruit, cooked with glorious spices and a good whack of chilli heat, make a great pairing, with the heat and spice counteracting the sweetness brought by the figs. You could substitute any other dried fruit.

I used both dried red figs and sun dried tomatoes I’d bought in Calitzdorp for this curry. It’s quick and easy to make and the figs and tomatoes plump up while cooking in the spicy sauce.

(Serves 4)


8 chicken thighs, skin removed but bones in

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 Tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp each cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

2 Tbsp crumbled dried curry leaves

8 cardamom pods

16 dried red figs

8 sun dried tomatoes (more if you prefer)

2 Tbsp masala

1 tsp chilli powder

1 litre chicken stock


2 heaped tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

Chopped coriander leaves for garnish


Pour the olive into a heavy pot and add the cumin, fennel, fenugreek and mustard seeds, bay leaf, cardamom pods and crumbled dried curry leaves. Stir, put the heat on moderately low, and leave it to braise very gently until the seeds begin to pop. Add the chopped onion and garlic and simmer until softened. Add the dried figs, sun dried tomatoes and chicken, stir, and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Stir in the masala, chilli powder, and chicken stock, season with salt to taste, and continue to cook for about half an hour.

When the chicken is tender, pour or spoon off the sauce into a saucepan, leave it to cool, spoon off excess oil and then bring the sauce to a boil. Cook rapidly until reduced by a third to half.

Stir in the dissolved cornflour and simmer for two minutes to thicken, while stirring. 

I served it with turmeric-cumin basmati rice. It also pairs well with this column. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.

SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.


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