Throwback Thursday: Chutney chicken

Throwback Thursday: Chutney chicken
Tony Jackman’s chutney chicken. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Funny how we think of chutney as such a South African thing even though its true home is India where it is produced in many different ways to diverse recipes and with disparate ingredients from fruit to peanuts to onion and coconut. But it’s ours as well, and we make it our own way. We even cook chicken in it.

Chutney chicken has long been a South African tradition for the family supper table. And though chutney plays a key role in the dish, there is plenty of mayonnaise in it too, along with tomato sauce and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. The proportions vary from recipe to recipe, and some even include wine.

The sauce in which it bakes is the kind of thing that has French chefs throwing up their hands in horror and reaching for the smelling salts. Like those in the kitchen of Johannesburg’s Carlton Hotel who, the story goes, invented monkeygland sauce in angry frustration with their South African customers who kept asking for tomato sauce and chutney with their steak. So they threw those and all sorts of things into a jug, mixed them, and called the result “monkeygland” sauce in mockery of their customers’ palates. We don’t know if the story is true, but it does sound credible.

Anyway, we need not apologise for our beloved chicken chutney, even if it does contain four store-cupboard sauces. Some things are just lekker, despite what goes into them and no matter how refined our palates might have become.

As with any popular old recipe, exactly how to make it changes from home cook to cook. Even the esteemed chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen is not too proud to make his own modestly refined version of it, in which he uses both chutney and mayonnaise, as well as Worcestershire sauce, although he leaves out the tomato sauce. He specifies that it must be a creamy, not tangy, mayonnaise.

There are a number of variations on the name of the dish, my favourite being “vra-na-meer-hoender” (ask-for-more-chicken). Errieda du Toit points out that the name of the dish depends on which book you read: “In Vosburg they call it sweet chicken and in the Gharies region, sour chicken. In Pretoria it’s Mrs Dominee’s chicken, something easy for when the elder and his wife invite themselves for lunch. People from the Sandveld call it lekker-soos-’n-krekker chicken. (That’s my other favourite name.)

Du Toit, in her excellent book Share (Struik Lifestyle), gives us two options for making chutney chicken. The first is much like my recipe below. The second is “the three-ingredient way: Make a sauce with 250 ml mayonnaise, 250 ml peach chutney and one packet (50 g) of brown onion soup powder, pour it over chicken portions that have been seasoned with salt and pepper, and bake, covered with aluminium foil, for an hour at 180℃. Remove the foil and bake until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is bubbly and sticky.” That’s a cool, quick cheat.

Du Toit’s recipe includes white wine, which I’d rather not use in this sauce as I think it makes it too runny. But you can add it if you like. I also am not a fan of pre-mixed spice so the ubiquitous “chicken spice” (or “steak and chops”) does not find a place in my kitchen or in my recipes. I’d sooner mix my own. I decided instead to use onion powder, garlic powder, salt and white pepper.

The tradition is to make it with Mrs HS Ball’s peach chutney.

(Serves 2 to 4)


8 chicken portions (thighs and drumsticks)

1 tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 large onion, grated

250 ml Mrs HS Ball’s peach chutney

½ cup / 125 ml tomato sauce

½ a cup / 125 ml mayonnaise

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce


Preheat the oven to 200℃.

Mix the onion and garlic powder with the salt and white pepper.

Season the chicken portions all over with this.

Butter an oven dish.

Place the chicken portions in.

Mix together the chutney, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and grated onion.

Spoon this over the chicken portions and move them around in it to coat them.

Bake in the preheated oven at 200℃ for an hour or 60 to 70 minutes. If it has not yet turned golden and beautiful, turn the heat up to 220℃ or 240℃ for 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve with steamed rice. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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