Today has been one of those days where no plan quite sticks; I’m going abroad unexpectedly for work at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so I squirrelled myself away upstairs to prepare, whilst my wife took the children out into the woods outside our house to pick blueberries (which I would’ve prepared a recipe to write up for if any of them lasted long enough. I do plan to before the summer is up, I promise!). Deciding what to have for dinner was very much a ‘who wants what?’ type of thing. I remembered there were a bag of frozen prawns at the bottom of the freezer, suggested a curry, and everyone seemed happy with the idea.
This curry is inspired by those of the south Indian region of Kerala, when fish and coconuts are plentiful, but is so thrown together on my part that I dared not allude to any sort of regional authenticity in its title. It’s really nice though.
If you don’t have prawns, use something else. Any shellfish, or indeed any fish at all would do the job here, or indeed a mixture. Whatever you have, or can get hold of easily.
We’re just having it with rice and chutneys, but it’d be wonderfully well accompanied by the Mango Chilli and Lime Salad that featured on this blog a while back.
The ingredients list may look long but, if you’ve made a curry from scratch before, your shopping list very likely won’t be. Probably a few items at most.
You will need:
- A bowl of prawns, maybe 300g or so, fresh, frozen, cooked, uncooked, or whatever you can get your hands on, peeled and prepared
- 2tbsp cooking oil
- 1tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1tsp mustard seeds
- A medium onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
- An inch of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1tsp ground corriander
- 1/2tsp ground turmeric
- A 400ml can of coconut milk
- 1tsp heaped of garam masala
- The juice of a lime
Put a medium casserole over a medium-low heat and add the oil. Add the whole spices, and fry them in the oil til they begin to pop and splutter. This will probably be a matter of a minute or so, but follow your ears. Don’t let them burn!
Add the onions, and cook them for a minimum of 10-15 minutes, maintaining a medium-ish heat. Unlike in most european traditions, we’re not aiming for translucent, soft onions, but for a deep, brown colour. The onions are the backbone of flavour most curries are built around, so take your time here (if I can, I’ll spend anywhere up to half an hour cooking the onions), and move onto the next stage only when the onions look a perfect, deep brown (but not at all black!)
Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or two until all raw smell subsides. Again, don’t hurry, and try to follow your nose and eyes, rather than the clock.
Add the ground spices, mix, and fry for about a minute, stirring regularly.
Pour in the coconut milk, stir, and bring to the boil.
Add the prawns. If they’re pre-cooked, you’re looking to warm them through. If they’re raw, simmer for a few minutes til they’re just pink, all the way through.
Sprinkle over the garam masala, stir in the half the lime juice, taste, season, add more lime juice if needed (you’re going for the perfect balance of sour, sweet, salty and creamy) taste again, and serve up.
This may not look like much but, with a perfectly balanced sweet/sour/salt flavour balance, you’re in for an absolute treat.