My mom is obsessed with her chickens! Each time she comes back from her visit upcountry, she has to bring new chickens with her. I do not like them because of the work involved rearing them. I would prefer if we kept just three at a time, but she wants us to have a whole brood with us. Recently she brought 3 new ones, which later got anxious because of the new environment, panicked and retreated to the hedge. So
my mum and I in unity and strength I had to chase them down, catch them and get them to their pen. It is never an easy task! My mum was laughing the whole time while I was doing the hard work. This city girl just couldn’t keep up!! But eventually, all three were caught and secured in their pen. Keeping chickens is such a hassle, which I would rather not indulge in. But all this is made worthwhile by knowing the feasting that will come after all the trouble will be unforgettable. And my sweat paid off when I dug my teeth into this kuku kienyeji (free range chicken) recipe that I made with a homemade spice blend. I shared sneak peaks with you on twitter and InstaStories over Easter but today, the long wait is over and I will share the recipe with you! You will loooooove this one!
PREP TIME: 2 Hrs COOK TIME: 50 MINUTES SERVES:7
For the spice blend
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of whole black pepper seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1/2 a tablespoon of chili flakes
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 a tablespoon minced ginger
1 kuku kienyeji (free range chicken), chopped into pieces
1 red onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 tomatoes, minced
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
Coriander for garnish
Let’s make our spice blend first :)). I decided to go with: rosemary, clove, cinnamon, bay leaves, turmeric, chili flakes, cumin and black pepper. All the spices were whole, which i proceeded to slightly toast, then crush with a kinu (pestle and mortar) since my spice crusher decided to break on this very day *sob*! I purchased ALL my whole spices from Tuskys but they are also available in CarreFour, Chandarana and Nakumatt with prices ranging between 60bob-180bob. You can use already crushed spices too though. I like crushing my own since I like my spice blend not to be too fine. Also, you can adjust the ratio of the spices and the mix to fit your preference and that is what makes cooking fun!
Once done, put that aside and get into cooking your chicken.
Chop your chicken into sizable pieces. Put them to boil together with 4 tablespoons of munyu mukhereka which will act as a meat tenderizer and add more flavor to it. Kuku kienyeji takes quite a long time to cook. You do not boil it until it is cooked through, but go further and boil it until it is tender. That can take up to 2 hours but if you have a pressure cooker, the time can be much shorter.
I know you may be thinking, what on earth is Munyu Mukhereka?!! Let me explain:
Munyu Mukerekha is a salt which also doubles up as a tenderizer widely used by Luhya people to add flavor and make certain foods softer or more tender. It is made from the ashes of burnt sun-dried bean pods or sun-dried matoke peels. The ash is then put in a perforated tin with some water and left undisturbed. The water drains through the perforated tin without debris but contains a lot of the sought after sour taste and alkalinity.
The resultant liquid is the munyu mukerekha. To tenderize, our kuku kienyeji, matumbo, meats (and kunde and sometimes meat too), we boil it with it. It is not compulsory, but makes a world of difference when used. In my opinion, it is a MUST HAVE for every kitchen.
Where can you get it? It is unfortunately not sold commercially (it used to be but production stopped) but you can always borrow from your Luhya neighbors. We are a giving people, so just ask them for some Munyu and you will be sorted! <3
Once the chicken is tender and the water had dried down, let it the chicken get a slight char then set aside.
In that same sufuria, add you red onion,chopped green bell pepper and minced garlic. This allows them to cook in the fat of the chicken and hence have a fuller flavor. I also did not want extra sufurias to wash ;)).
Once the onion and garlic is softened and fragrant add the tomatoes, and tomato paste plus some salt and 1/4 cup of hot water and allow this to cook down for about 4 minutes.
Add the boiled tender chicken, plus the spice blend and mix it all in. Add some stock/hot water 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the soup thickness consistency you prefer. Do not pour 3 jericans of water then wonder why your gravy is not beautifully thick and rich unless of course that is your preference. Always add bit by bit then stop once your gravy is as thick as you prefer it to be.
Let this simmer on medium high heat until all the flavors meld and sink into the chicken. This will take about 30 minutes. Once done, remove from the heat, garnish with your coriander and serve.
Who ever says kuku kienyeji is not tender may not have mastered how to make it tender! This is one meal I just cannot miss out on when it is cooked, and with this garlic kuku kienyeji recipe, it is one I could have every singe day if I had the chance!
You can never go wrong with you garlic when you are making kuku kienyeji. It really came through and the home made spice blend knocked the ball out of the park! Such full flavors developed right in your kitchen! Something refreshing about knowing exactly what is in your spice blends and having the freedom to modify it as you prefer and please!
This was a major slurp fest! And thank God this would go with nearly all starches and sides; be it chapati, or ugali or roast potatoes or matoke. Whatever you choose to have it with, you will thoroughly enjoy!
Get your downloadable recipe here :))