Boulettes de poulet colombo

French Caribbean chicken balls

This spicy dish of chicken meatballs in a coconut-curry sauce makes a delightul hot-weather meal with exotic flavors. The dish takes its name from colombo, a spice mix widely used in Martinique and Guadeloupe, the two main islands of the French Antilles. As its name implies, the spice mix has roots in Sri Lanka and its capital, Colombo.

As colombo powder can be hard to find outside France, I composed my own blend for the purposes of this recipe, combining curry powder with a pinch each of ground cumin, coriander, cloves, allspice and ginger. Alternatively, you can simply use curry powder.

Serve the chicken balls and their sauce over rice. Alongside you could serve an avocado-tomato-cilantro salad. A chilled rosé would marry well. A rum drink like ti punch would be even better. The quantities below will serve 2 people.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 bird’s eye or cayenne pepper
1 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. curry powder
1 pinch each of ground cumin, coriander, cloves, allspice and ginger

1 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup (200 ml) water

3/4 cup (200 ml) coconut milk
1 tsp. sugar, preferably cassonnade or demerara

Chop the chicken breasts into largish pieces and place in a food processor.

Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and add.

Set aside a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish. Divide the rest of the bunch in half. Chop off the large stems of the first half, and add the rest to the food processor.

If using a bird’s eye pepper, slice in half, remove the seeds and add about half of it to the food processor, or more if you enjoy more heat. If using a cayenne pepper, crush and add.

Squeeze in the juice of half of the lime. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and grind on some black pepper. Pulse to blend thoroughly.

Transfer the chopped chicken to a bowl — it’s actually more like a paste. Form it into walnut-sized balls.

Make your spice mix. In a small bowl combine the curry powder with the other spices. Stir.

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a skillet. Gently add the chicken balls. Sauté over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Turn the balls over often to help them keep their round shape as much as possible.

Add the spice mix to the skillet. Stir to coat the chicken balls. Add the water. Use a wooden spatula to incorporate the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Add the coconut milk. Stir to blend. Squeeze in the juice of the other half of the lime. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and the sugar. Snip the leaves of the other half of the cilantro over the pot. Stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Serve piping hot over rice, decorated with the extra cilantro sprigs. Serves 2.

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