Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Going Going Goan

One of the first things I wanted to learn to make was prawn curry. Prawn curry has been my favourite food since I was 5 years old. I eat it when I'm sick, I eat it before going out of town, I eat it when I come back home after a long holiday – prawn curry is my go to food. I wanted to learn how to make it, and who better to teach me than my mum! It was really a collaborative effort between her and my cook, with both of them trying very hard not to laugh when I asked them questions they deemed ‘stupid’.  

We started slow, first a vegetable curry, then a chicken curry and finally moved up to the big one – the prawn curry! The first few times I made this curry, I felt like I needed two extra sets of arms to be able to do everything in its correct order. I was hot and flustered and could not do anything without some help. I had to check if the quantity of spices I was putting in was ok, if I had cleaned the prawns right, if I had squeezed the lemon correctly – everything!  I still feel like that when I make it, but it’s getting easier slowly. My mission is to make this curry three times in a row without having the mixer explode onions or tomato all over me. Fingers crossed!

The way we cook it at home is absolutely from scratch. No pre prepared curry masala, no canned coconut milk – everything is made. It would definitely be easier making it with a packet of masala (I would feel a lot less like I needed 8 arms), but I'm not too sure how it would taste he he.

Amy's Goan Prawn Curry

For the masala
12 dried Kashmiri chilies
6 mid sized onions - rough chopped
7 mid sized tomatoes - rough chopped
2 teaspoons jeera or cumin powder
3 teaspoons dhanya or coriander powder
1 teaspoon rai or mustard powder
3 bits elaichi or cardamom pods

1 fresh coconut - rough chopped
1 can coconut milk (not desiccated, natural)

1 kg prawns (shelled)
2 teaspoons salt
2 large lemons (juiced)

Curry patta

Preprep (or do at the very beginning)
Clean prawns and marinate with 2 teaspoons salt and lemon juice. (If you’re like me, you will order the prawns pre cleaned or beg someone at home to help you clean them. Don't feel guilty about it, or use rubber gloves to clean them if you do)

Step 1
Make the Masala

Chop the onions roughly and sauté them in 2 teaspoons oil with 1 teaspoon garlic paste and 1 teaspoon ginger paste. They should go translucent which will take you 7 to 8 minutes.

Wash your chilies and make sure you behead (destalk) them. Roughly chop up the tomatoes and add to the mixer

Add the jeera, dhanya, rai and elaichi to the mixer along with a cup of water.
Blend thoroughly until you have a thick paste.

Step 2
Push the mixture through a strainer so that the liquid strains into a bowl.
Add some water to the remnants of pulp and repeat a few times. Make sure you press down properly to get all possible liquid out. Use the back of a rounded spoon or your hands – you can always wash after.

The reason you are doing this is to extract as much masala from the mixture as possible, without the ‘icky’ bits like chili seeds and tomato pips. This masala forms the base of your curry so it is important that it is mixed thoroughly – there’s no such thing as over mixing here – and strained properly.

(The other reason you are doing this is, as my cook says, 'if you're cooking in your saasu's house, you don't want her to think you are wasteful'. Imagine me hearing this when I was 19 years old and almost falling off the kitchen counter laughing and hysterical.)

Step 3
Blend/ put onions into a mixer with a little water until absolutely fine. Add to masala you have collected and start to boil. (Please check that the top of your mixer is fixed correctly. The last time I made this curry onion exploded everywhere and even reached the ceiling!)

Leave the masala to boil and get on with your other work. (By this time, I have usually washed the bowl of the mixer twice already and am getting fed up.)

Step 4
Crack coconut open using a pestle (we in India call is a khalbatta). Cut the coconut flesh into bits and add to the bowl of your mixer along with 1 cup water.

Grind well, till you get a slushy paste.

Strain the liquid and collect the ‘thick water’ in a separate bowl. (Check on your curry, it should be bubbling merrily by now.)

Add more water to the remnants of the coconut milk and repeat (this is the same thing we did with the curry masala)

Add this thin coconut water to the boiling curry. (Be careful with how much you add, if you don't like a very watery curry do not add all of it.)

If you’re using the can of milk, just add it to the curry slowly, making sure it doesn't become too thin.

Step 5
Sautee 2 stalks of curry leaves in 1 teaspoon of oil and then add to your curry. (You can do this in advance and keep the leaves covered so they retain the odor. Make sure the oil is very hot before adding the leaves, you just want to blister them.)

At this point, if the curry is slightly thickish and not smooth, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

Step 6
Add the pre marinated prawns to your curry and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.

Step 7
Add thick coconut milk. The curry should be bright orange (or some shade of orange by now). Though the milk is thick, it will dilute the curry here.

Step 8
Add 5 to 6 green chilies sliced vertically to curry.

Step 9
Add salt and lemon to taste.

Step 10
Leave the curry to boil for another 15 minutes and take it off the stove.

There you have it – yummy, fresh, made from scratch Goan curry. Serve it with rice (add butter to the rice to make it sinful) or hard bread (brun pao is amazing) or just with a spoon.

This is best accompanied with Kachoobar (finely chopped onion, tomato, green chili, kothmir and lemon) and fried papad. 

You definitely need company to eat this, you can't curry on by yourself! 


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