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Coastal Style Prawn Curry

Coastal Style Prawn Curry

Anjali Venugopal July 31, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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My undying love for coastal flavours and cuisine is not the best kept secret. On the days I am not whipping up flavours from the seaside in the kitchen, take it for granted that my mind will be wandering far away, somewhere on pristine, white sands with a cool sea breeze on my face, salt on my lips, watching the waves wash against the shore, tirelessly. There is indeed something so comforting, so soothing about the ocean; especially in the dead of the night, under the moonlight.

Although it’d be criminal to whine, sitting in the beautiful city of Vienna, I cannot help but admit that I do sometimes miss the close proximity of the ocean and the fresh sea food that comes with the package of living by the coast. Anyway, today being one of my fidgety days when I can’t seem to find enough patience to put pen to paper, I am going to get down to business sooner than usual. This recipe is as easy as coastal cuisine gets. It is an authentic Kerala delicacy and may be prepared using prawns or fish. Another fact that may garner your interest is that you can fix on a south Kerala style or a north Kerala style depending on the variety of tamarind you use. Read on for more.

Things you will need:

  • Prawns- 500 gms
  • Grated coconut- ½ cup (even full fat desiccated coconut works fine)
  • Fenugreek seeds- ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
  • Chilli powder- 1 tbsp (vary according to spice tolerance)
  • Tomatoes- 1 chopped roughly
  • Onion- 1 small
  • Green chillies- 3 slit
  • Ginger- a half inch stick
  • Malabar Tamarind/Cocum- 4-5 pieces soaked in water for 15 minutes. (If you would like to make this a south Kerala delicacy, instead of the cocum, take a gooseberry sized tamarind ball, soak it in water and take the juice)
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  • Cooking oil (I prefer to use coconut oil for the authentic flavour

How to go about it:

  1. Make a smooth paste out of the coconut, turmeric, chilli powder, onion, ginger and water enough to make it a loose paste.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a wok, and allow the fenugreek seeds to splutter. Add the coconut paste to the wok with sufficient water to make a thick gravy. Add the chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, salt and slit green chillies. Add the soaked cocum pieces (or if you are using ordinary tamarind, add the juice to the gravy but make sure you reduce the water used to make the gravy, lest the gravy should be too watery)
  3. Add the cleaned prawns to the gravy, mix well, bring to a boil and leave the gravy to simmer for about 20 minutes keeping the wok closed.
  4. Your prawn curry is ready to be served with steamed white rice, or idiyappams (string hoppers) 🙂
Kerala Toddy Shop Style Fish Curry

Kerala Toddy Shop Style Fish Curry

Anjali Venugopal June 23, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_5805Summer seems to have officially made an entry. Before I moved to Vienna, I would have expected the temperatures in the city to not soar beyond maybe a 20 degrees, but I now realize I could not have been more wrong. At a solid 33 degrees, Vienna ensures that I am not spoilt beyond correction or recognition in the little ways she does. With the city that has not embraced the concept of air conditioners (apart from the ones you find in swanky offices) yet, gym visits are not so fun anymore. The idea of a ‘summer glow’ gets oft mistaken for the term ‘sweaty pig.’ The good part is that all the coats and the jackets have all been duly stowed away and the shorts, the tees, easy breezy dresses and the best of them all, open sandals that lets you show off pretty pedicures that cost half a fortune, have been brought out. Well, you win some, you lose some I reckon.

While walking back from the gym, sipping on a bottle of cold, freshly squeezed orange juice with a hint of ginger, watching the sweaty cyclists whiz past and the new moms ambling by in the sweltering heat with their babies in colourful prams, I realized that I am still lagging behind my whole plan of a-recipe-a-week. The past two weeks somehow kept me on my toes. Especially this week with the little nephew bobbing around in the house, with demands no less than Kathakali performances from your truly to keep him from crankiness, I am surprised I found time enough to eat three square meals. No, I am kidding. Food seldom gets jeopardized in a household I run and you must know that by now.

Anyway, since time does not make the effort to find you, I decided to keep dinner plans simple and instead put up the recipe of a dish a lot of you have been asking for; the Kerala toddy shop style fish curry. This is one recipe that can take me back to the Kallu Shaap (toddy shop, and toddy being fermented palm wine which is native to my part of the world, Kerala) by the backwaters of Kuttanaad, on that bright, sunny day in April, where I had my first taste of toddy with my dad. Kuttanaadu is one place, I am sure every malayali holds close to his/her chest with immense pride. Being the point with the lowest altitude in India, the beauty Kuttanaadu encompasses is something I believe no words can do justice to; her vast expanse of green paddy fields under the pastel blue skies; the canals and the backwaters that stretch out for as far as your eyes can reach; the coconut trees swaying in the wind that line the pristine water bodies; the kettuvallams or the houseboats with intricately woven thatched roofs that stand testament to the efforts put in by the natives; kids running by the narrow roads chasing old cycle tyres with sticks; the run down toddy shops serving cold toddy in tall, glass bottles; the peace, the quiet and the serenity; the food.

The toddy shop kitchens I believe are homes to raw, brazen culinary skill at its finest. Home to arguably the most beautiful water bodies on the planet, a dearth of fresh fish and seafood is unheard of in Kuttanaadu. That, coupled with the bold use of fresh condiments make the food served in the toddy shops not only spicy but also an unforgettable experience in itself. Today I share with you the recipe to the fiery, red fish curry, the way it is served in the toddy shops of Kerala. This is one dish for which my marginal utility never dips. If I had to pick just one dish for the rest of my life, it would be this red hot gravy. So, here goes.

 

Things you will need:

  • Fish- 500 gms washed and cleaned (I use Trout here. In India, this curry works best with Seer Fish or King Fish)
  • Onion- 1 large chopped finely
  • Tomato- 1 large chopped (this is strictly optional. A lot of people I know do not use tomatoes in this curry, but I love the flavour tomatoes lend and the fact that it helps in thickening the gravy, just the way I like it)
  • Ginger- 1 small piece chopped finely
  • Garlic- 6-8 pods sliced finely
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Curry leaves
  • Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri Red chili powder (not Kashmiri chili powder)- 3 tablespoons (this is for a medium to hot curry. The ratio is 1 tbsp for about four pieces of fish)
  • Malabar Tamarind- 4-5 pieces (soaked in water for 15 minutes. This is the fulcrum of the dish and is absolutely unavoidable)

 

How to go about it:

  1. First, in a wok, heat some cooking oil and temper 1 tsp mustard seeds, a generous amount of curry leaves and ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the ginger and garlic, sauté for a minute.
  2. Next, add the chopped onions to the wok. Sauté till they start to turn golden brown. Add the tomatoes to the wok, keep the wok closed for about a minute for them to cook. Once the tomatoes have softened, keep sautéing till the raw smell goes away. Add the turmeric, red chili powder. Mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave the sides and the raw smell of the condiments is lost.
  3. Add the tamarind pieces along with the water. Add about 1 glass and a little more of water and add salt. Mix the gravy well and then proceed to add the fish to the gravy. Coat the pieces in the gravy and keep the wok closed on high heat.
  4. Once the gravy starts to boil, reduce the heat to a medium. At this point, shake the wok well to mix the gravy that may look a little watery. Do not use a spoon to stir as that will break the pieces of the fish and the entire dish becomes unappetizing. Keep the wok closed to simmer for about 20 minutes. After that, open the lid and let the gravy boil on high heat for about 5 minutes or till the gravy starts to thicken.
  5. Once the fish is cooked and the gravy has thickened, the dish is ready to be served. This fish curry tastes better a day after it is made. Serve with hot rice or tapioca. Enjoy!
My Unassuming Spicy Fried Prawns

My Unassuming Spicy Fried Prawns

Anjali Venugopal June 20, 2016 NO COMMENTS

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My mum reminds me at least once every second day, about how I was the last person she expected to turn to anything homey, let alone cooking. Honestly, even I didn’t realize when my love for cooking got under my skin. I started cooking only as a means to sustenance, to keep poverty at bay, by the time the boy and I reached the end of the month at law school. No, unfortunately we didn’t succeed in the latter, and this may be attributed to our eternal obsession for exotic food and drink. Our love for gastronomy certainly lays at least two of the founding stones in our relationship and I think that’s wonderful. 😛

So, now here I am, delighted to have found for myself something that I genuinely love doing. I have come to realise that apart from developing and improvising on recipes, one thing thing that makes me just as happy, if not happier, is being given an opportunity to stuff other faces. 😀 And I am positive that two of our closest friends from law school (now happily married and would rather be treated as a single entity :P) would most certainly stand testament to that.

Okay, enough of pointless blabber. Moving on to food. In a hypothetical scenario, where two daunting delinquents have me at gun point and I am asked to pick an ingredient which I would swear by, I would certainly pick onions and then tell them that they didn’t need no guns for such a simple task. I think onions are a gift to all food Indian. The only trick you need to master is the art of sautéing (to be read as the art of staying patient.) So, here goes. This recipe of mine is very onion centric and as always, super easy.

Things you will need:

  • Prawns- 500 gms (Any size, cleaned and deveined)

For marination:

  • Onions- 2 large
  • Chilly powder- 1 ½ tbsp
  • Coriander powder- 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
  • Fine ground black pepper- 1 tbsp

For sautéing:

  • Onions- 2 Large thinly sliced
  • Curry leaves- 1 swig
  • Cooking oil

 

How to go about it:

Step 1: The first step would be to make the paste for marination. Take 2 large onions and make a fine paste of it by using the mixer. To the onion paste, add the powders and salt to taste. Mix well and the paste is ready. Marinate the prawns in the paste and keep it aside for half an hour.

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Step 2: Heat some oil in a pan and temper it with the curry leaves. The authentic aroma of Kerala food that the curry leaves provide you with, is undeniable. Next sauté the other onions that are thinly sliced. Add a bit of salt to hasten the process by a bit. You need to be patient enough to sauté the onions till they are a golden brown. This step needs to be followed to the T for the desired result. No fidgeting.

Step 3: Once the onions turn a golden brown, add the marinated prawns. Mix it well in the onions and oil and keep the covered on medium heat.

Step 4: Seafood tends to cook very fast and I am not a fan of overcooking seafood. So in a matter of ten mins, the prawns would have been cooked and the water content in the prawns would have oozed out. Remove the lid and get all the water to evaporate by keep the pan on high heat.

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Step 5: Once all the water has evaporated, add a spoon more of oil and fry the prawns till you achieve the desired consistency. I like my prawns 90% dry, which means I don’t let them fry till they are absolutely stiff. With this, your spicy fried prawn is ready to be pounced on.

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How easy was that? Let me know in your comments! 😀