In the Kitchen: Colonial Chicken Curry

In the Kitchen with 

the Hammond-Harwood House
Colonial Chicken Curry

Story & Photography by Christine Fillat

Reading a good book is always a pleasure. A good book will transport you to another time and place and if it’s really good, you will sense the environment of the setting, and find a connection with present times.

In 1860, some Marylanders enjoyed chicken curry with all of its accompaniments. You can recreate the same recipe today, thanks to the historic Hammond-Harwood House’s 50th anniversary edition of Maryland’s Way Cookbook. It’s fascinating reading and can be purchased at the Hammond-Harwood House.

This cookbook is the collective diary of how folks in the tide water region passed the time and created their food. It is an essential historical account and relevant modern cooking manual. Consider the modern movement of preparing food that is locally grown. Cooks from long ago had to use whatever ingredients were readily available and in season.


Chicken Curry:

• One 5 pound fowl

• 1/2 cup butter

• 1 medium onion (chopped)

• 1 clove of garlic (minced)

• 1 stalk of celery

• 1 small bay leaf

• 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

• 1 green apple

• 1/2 pound raw chopped ham

• 2 tablespoon flour

• 1/2 teaspoon powdered mace

• 2 teaspoon curry powder

• 2 cups chicken broth

• 1/2 cup cocoanut [sic] milk

• 1 cup cream


Cook fowl in a savory broth until tender; cut in pieces as you wish to serve them, with or without bones. Place in saucepan.

Prepare curry as follows: Melt butter in a heavy skillet, and in it cook the chopped onion, minced garlic and diced celery, the bayleaf, mustard, apple and ham for about 8 minutes, turning carefully. Add the flour, mace and curry powder and cook 4 minutes more. Add chicken broth, made stronger by reducing stock in which chicken was cooked.

Add cocoanut milk (a good substitute maybe made by pouring a cup of boiling water over 1 cup freshly grated cocoanut). Bring to a boil and let simmer very slowly for about an hour. Strain; carefully stir in cream, and test for sesasoning.

Pour over chicken pieces in saucepan and let cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly hot. Serve with rice. Curry should be accompanied by these condiments:

Chutney, grated cocoanut, chopped hard-boiled eggs, crisply fried chopped bacon, chopped almonds or peanuts, finely chopped spring onions.


Adapted from Mrs. McBlair’s receipt
Maria T. Allison’s Book, 1860.
Included in Maryland's Way Cookbook

Christine Fillat lives on the Magothy River and is an aficionado of Chesapeake Bay cooking and living.

From Vol. 4, No. 5 2013
Annapolis Home Magazine