Keralan King Prawn Curry
I have a love for south Indian cuisine; the combination of sweet coconut, pungent mustard seeds and aromatic curry leaves creates a lovely base that complements any type of seafood. Prawns in India are large, naturally sweet and have a pleasing meaty texture. I cook this curry on a very regular basis – it may just be my favourite!
500g fresh raw king prawns (heads and shells left on)
3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp Holy Trinity Paste (see recipe below)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
For the curry sauce
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp each of finely diced fresh ginger and garlic
30 fresh curry leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp thinly sliced green chilli
1 tsp each of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander and paprika
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp palm sugar
a 400ml tin of coconut milk
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
Prepare the prawns by removing the eyes and the black vein that runs down the back of its spine. Rinse gently and leave to drain.
Combine the vegetable oil, lemon juice, holy trinity paste, ground turmeric and salt to make the marinade for the prawns and pour it over them. Mix well and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to marinate.
To make the curry sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed wok over medium heat until hot. Add the cloves and cumin and mustard seeds and allow them to sizzle and pop. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute until slightly golden. Add the curry leaves and let them sizzle for 10 seconds, being cautious as the oil will spit as soon as the curry leaves go into the wok. Add the onion, salt and green chilli and fry until the onion is softened and golden-brown. Covering the wok with a lid will help the onion cook quicker.
Add depth to this sauce by adding in the ground turmeric, cumin, coriander and paprika. Mix them well into the mixture and gently fry the spices for 2 minutes, stirring well. Add a splash of water to stop the wok from drying out too much and burning. When the spices have cooked out, add the tomato purée, mix well and fry for a further 5 minutes, adding another splash of water if the wok is becoming too dry.
Add the palm sugar and gently simmer for 2 minutes. Next, pour in the coconut milk, mix well and simmer for a good 5 minutes to ensure all of the flavours are becoming well infused. Once the coconut milk has warmed through, add 300ml of water to loosen the sauce. Leave to simmer over low heat for 2 minutes.
Heat the oil for frying in a frying pan until smoking. One by one, add the prawns into the pan going around in a circle, so that when all of the prawns have been placed in the pan, you can then turn them over in the order they were added once they start to turn pink.
Add the garam masala to the curry sauce in the wok and stir in. Add the pan-fried prawns to the sauce and mix in well. Simmer for a good 3-4 minutes until they are well cooked through. Add the coriander, then remove from the heat. This curry is best eaten with basmati rice or naan bread.
Holy Trinity Paste
In my opinion, this is vital to most home-cooked Gujarati-style dishes. The “holy trinity” of green chilli, garlic and ginger creates a wonderful fresh flavour. It is quite punchy, so you want to cook out all the rawness from it when it comes to layering flavours in dishes. You can quarter the quantities here for a smaller yield.
200g (about 6) green chillies
200g (about 40) garlic cloves
200g (about 8x5cm pieces) fresh root ginger
50ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp salt
Blitz together the ingredients in a food processor to form a coarse paste. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Extracted from My Modern Indian Kitchen by Nitisha Patel (Ryland Peters & Small, approx €20). Photography by Clare Winfield.