Palm Oil Chop

Every culture has its festive dishes, those foods that signify that “This is a celebration!”. But as cultures are not homogenous and cross into each other in sometimes suprising ways, I will share with you the Bolger family traditional Christmas dinner. It’s based on the Palm Oil Chop, a dish that in Western Africa is synonymous with special occasions. In the early 1950s my father worked in Nigeria, teaching at a college in that part of the country that would become known briefly as Biafra. So the family (at that time just my mother and I) all moved there and spent several years there. Thus were we introduced to the Palm Oil Chop. My mother interpreted it as a Chicken Curry but followed the basic idea of it pretty closely.

 

Traditionally, the Palm Oil Chop is chicken cut into smallish pieces, or cubed beef — or both — and browned in palm oil with ginger and cinnamon and some chilli. Then onions and tomatoes and bell peppers are chopped, added to the oil and cooked until tender — about 20 minutes. Then the chicken and/or the beef is returned and cooked for up to an hour or more. By this time then vegetables will be more like a sauce than separate pieces. Season well with salt and pepper and serve over rice … with garnishes.

This dish is all about the garnishes and that’s where the fun begins. Especially on a festive occasion like Christmas, you can go a bit overboard on the garnishes and it can make for lovely decoration of the Christmas table. I usually serve all this buffet-style. Here are some of the garnishes that I’ve used and you can come up with your own, too.

 

Dried coconut

Roasted dried coconut 

Finely chopped red onions 

Crispy fried onions 

Sliced scallions 

Chopped tomatoes 

Toasted peanuts 

Raisins 

Sliced banana 

Fried banana and/or plantain

Pineapple chunks 

Orange sections 

Mango cubes 

Grapes

Avocado slices 

Sliced cucumber

Diced cantaloup 

Cilantro leaves 

Croutons 

Chopped hard-boiled eggs — or serve whole hard-boiled eggs, a là Doro Wat 

Pickled Limes

Mango Chutney 

Peach Chutney 

Raitas

 

What I recommend is that you put a small amount of rice on your plate. Add a few garnishes that take your fancy, then mix the rice and the garnishes together thoroughly. Add some sauce and mix that in, too. Give that combination a try, then get some more rice and some more garnishes and try out that combination. Yes, the sauce is important but the rice/garnish combinations are where you can have a fun culinary experience.

I usually have a few different curried dishes — a lamb Rogan Josh, spicy chicken in a sauce with cream and banana, perhaps a vegetable curry and maybe some Saag Paneer. 

 

1 comment

  • patronsurvey

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