MEET CHEF JP’S SPECIAL EASTER BUNNIES
WORDS AND IMAGES: CHF JP LE ROUX
The iconic bunny chow – a hulled-out quarter loaf of white bread filled with a curry of your choice – is as authentically Durban as rickshaw rides along the beachfront and sweltering February days. Rumour has it that this street food was a creation of the apartheid era to feed indentured Indian labourers whilst other urban
yarns have the bunny invented to feed caddies on Durban golf courses.
Whatever legend you choose, the bunny was named for the Indian businessmen who sold the curry (bania) and the local slang word for food (chow). It’s made to be eaten with your hands, starting from the top and extending to the gravy soaked crust. It’s about delicious flavours and spices and rich gravy dripping off the end of one’s chin.
But my take on bunnies is that they have evolved over the years. Whereas the hollowed out bread loaves initially held bean or veggie curries, they now are home to everything from mutton to more exotic seafood.
Come to think of it, today’s bunnies are much like pizzas – you can basically put any topping inside them.
This Easter, my quirky version of the bunny has nothing to do with chocolate, tinfoil or even bob tails and whiskers.
Instead it’s a celebration of decadent flavours served up creatively without moving too far from that traditional, humble loaf of bread. It just keeps it real, somehow
JP’s CLAM AND CRAB BUNNY
What I love most about the bunny is its versatility. It’s about having fun with food and taking us to a new level of experimentation with flavours and colours.
My latest creation is an aromatic spice combo combined with fish and crab spice. If bunnies could fly, then this one would take you to infinity and beyond.
FROM THE PANTRY
BTW, I added the cabbage ears for fun and for decoration …
I used 250 grams of cleaned crab, a handful of clams, fresh peeled tomatoes, red onion, celery, sweet potato, and cabbage leaves. This is more of a hands on bunny and you definitely need a bib when you devour this seafood delight.
Fill a medium size pot to 3/4 with water, add your cleaned crab portions, some coarse salt and 20 ml of fish oil. Bring to boil and then let them cool down. At the same time, do the same thing with your clams. They will be ready as soon as they open up and surface.
In a wok, sweat your onions (1 onion will suffice), add the finely chopped celery sticks, salt and pepper and mix in your spice (2 tablespoons). When your onions are translucent, add your tin of peeled tomatoes and your sweet potato wedges (sort of thumbnail size). Turn off the heat and let it slowly cook away.
Sweet potatoes take only 5 minutes to cook!
Now you can strain your crab, half shell you clams and add them to the mixture. Let them brew away in the sauce. I added a dollop of fresh cream to smooth the edges and to thicken the broth.
It’s now time to spoon your masterpiece into your bread loaf. To garnish, peel and trim two even sized red cabbage leaves, add some dhania, salt and pepper to taste and have fun this Easter!
HOT OR WOT CHICKEN AND PRAWN BUNNY
If you want to go chicken and prawn route, here is one of my favourite recipes – with a little inspiration from a very special Auntie…. and, take it from me, never mess with an Auntie’s recipe for a good sauce. Lots of time and love goes with it. Somehow, it just tastes better …
My fellow executive chef, Kevin Joseph at the Oyster Box, makes a damn fine chicken and prawn curry. But this is my take on it. I like it hot, so I made it with a mix of Vindaloo curry powder, that has a vinegar notes and a classic madras powder with a dash of turmeric.
FROM YOUR D’URBAN PANTRY:
300 grams free range chicken breast, preferably cubed
ghee for sautéing
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
20 grams of your curry mix
2 peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
4 to 6 cleaned and deveined prawns, heads off
2 tablespoons mango atcha
salt and pepper.
To garnish: fennel and liquorice
Liquorice and fennel help with digesting any hot meal, and they are good for the liver.
SLICE ME NICE MUTTON / LAMB BUNNY
Whether you go for lamb or the classic mutton that has come to be synonymous with the classic bunny chow, this is an all-time favourite of mine. The choice of meat is not important – it is the quality of the meat that matters. For added flavour and succulence, letting it rest overnight in some buttermilk always does the trick.
The choice of spice is also up for debate. Some like it hot, and some not. This time, it’s all about your particular preference.
My recipe is for the milder at heart so, use a mild curry, a mixture of mild Durban masala and some Cape Malay mild curry powder or paste. Some of you might like chillies but, in my opinion, there is always the danger that chillies could be to overwhelming and that you won’t taste and appreciate the flavour of your tender mutton/ lamb.
I fry my onions until translucent, add a tin of peeled tomatoes followed by a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ginger, a cinnamon stick and my curry mix. Then I let it simmer, add my par cooked potatoes and the meat. I cook this on a medium heat for about 30 minutes, slowly stirring the pot, to avoid burning. I usually add a bouquet garni with some bay leaf, star anise and coriander.
When your curry is ready, remove your bouquet garni and let your curry rest for a few minutes before serving in your bread hub.
My version of a D’urban mutton bunny has been served using sliced bread and garnished with some grated carrots and fresh coriander. Alternatively, you can add your mutton / lamb curry to a standard ¼ loaf and garnish with dhania.
If you like, you can make a quick salsa verde – aka sambals – with finely chopped chilli, onion, spring onion. Sometimes, fresh slices of banana also work their magic.
HOT CROSS BUNNIES
Bet you never thought you’d see those standard six packs of hot cross buns used like this! The truth is that you can put anything inside these little bunnies and they can be the perfect snack or finger food.
For mine, I added a classic vegetable curry (made using seasonal veggies) to their little tummies as an alternative to the standard mutton or chicken.
Whatever you do this Easter, fill your breadbaskets with some colourful spices, rich flavours, and magical aromas. It’s the perfect time to greet the Easter bunny in a whole new way… and as proper Durban slang goes,
Chow for now,
P.S. During the tough times in which we find ourselves in the Bunny Chow capital, be kind and considerate … reach out and don’t forget that a little love goes a long way!