Work in Progress – No. 3

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We experiment often, trying new methods or recipes or trying to recreate something we have eaten some where or other. There are successes and failures, there is elation and disappointment, failure and triumph.

Black Pepper Chicken With Turmeric

We often see recipes for salt and pepper squid or black pepper squid.

I recently came across a recipe for chicken with black pepper, turmeric and asparagus. It spurred me to try some ideas of my own. Here is a summary of my first attempt – I would rate the result as very good. Best of all – it looks spectacular, with the yellow tinted chicken from the turmeric, balanced by the green beans.

Use a green vegetable of some sort, sliced into bite-sized pieces: green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccolini or broccoli. I tend not to put in any processed Asian sauces, for example, bottled oyster sauce. However, experiment with those if you wish.

Ingredients (for two people)

  • 1 large chicken breast or equivalent in thighs (about 300 g), diced
  • 1½ tsps ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ tsps cracked (coarsely ground) black pepper
  • 1 tbsp peanut or macadamia nut oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, sliced into half moons
  • 2 to 3 cups green beans sliced (or other green vegetable)
  • 1 small hot chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cm ginger, finely chopped
  • (optional) handful of curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp wine or cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry or equivalent
  • (optional) 1 tbsp honey
  • (optional) 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • (optional) chopped mint and/or basil and/or lime wedges to garnish
  • steamed rice for serving


In a bowl combine the chicken pieces, turmeric, salt and cracked pepper. Toss to coat well. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add the onion slices and toss. Keeping the heat up, add the green beans (or other vegetables) and stir fry until the beans start to tenderise a little.

Add the chilli, garlic and ginger (and curry leaves). Toss through for a minute or two. Remove the bean mixture to a bowl, cover and keep warm, allowing the beans to steam.

Add more oil to the wok if required. Over high heat stir fry the chicken pieces until almost cooked.

Return the beans to the wok, toss through.

Add the vinegar and sherry (and honey or soy). Combine until hot. Add extra water if necessary, but aim for a dry result, rather than too much sauce.

Serve immediately, garnished if desired, with steamed rice. Serves two as a main course.

Degree of difficulty: 3/5 (moderately difficult). Take care that the beans aren’t too undercooked, and that the chicken is not under- or over-cooked.

Contributions welcomed!

If you have been trying to perfect a recipe, we are happy to hear about your attempts, including the recipe, problems and successes (and good quality photos if you have any).