I'm not sure what it is that has landed Bengalis with the title of seafood lovers (perhaps the dozens of fresh water rivers that vein themselves through the land?) but it seems to have stuck. I have to confess that my palate is not made for dry-cured fish or the crispy fried head of an ilish mach, but I can share in the love of fish cooked in light spices. The first mistake I made when learning to cook seafood was that I used the same amount of ingredients as I would with meat. Being less dense, most seafood takes less time to cook through and less spice too!
Today's recipe is a simple prawn curry where the spices are stewed with the addition of a little coconut milk, which prevents ingredients taking over from the awesome flavour of prawns. It is a traditional way of Bengali cooking but it can be added to meat curries as well: marinate in coconut milk and spices to tenderise the meat or add a spoon or two to reduce the heat from the chilli powder.
Servings: 5-6 portions
Prep+cooking time: 40mins
- 500g tiger or jumbo prawns, peeled and cleaned
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red or yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
- 1 cup coconut milk, roughly 300ml
- 1 inch cube of ginger, finely grated
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green chilli, halved
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2-3 cardamom pods
- 4-5 cloves
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp mustard oil, plus a little extra for frying prawns
- salt, to taste
- fresh chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tsp clarified butter/ghee
1) Wash and devein the prawns. In a bowl, coat them with salt, turmeric and red chill. In a non-stick frying pan, fry in a drizzle of mustard oil. You'll know they've cooked through when they turn pink and begin to curl into themselves. Leave the prawns to one side.
2) The next step involves making garam masala from scratch. It is more aromatic than store bought garam masala powder but it is up to you which you choose, they both contain the same ingredients. Clean the previous pan with paper towels. Dry roast peppercorns, cardamom pods, cumin, cloves and then grind in a pestle and mortar.
3) In a separate medium sized pan, heat the mustard oil and ghee over a medium heat. Fry the onion, ginger, garlic and all the spices for 5 minutes until the harsh onion smell disappears.
4) Once the onions are soft and golden, add the coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes on a high heat. You should begin to see the oil separating.
5) Reduce the heat and add the fried prawns. Cover the pan and leave for another 15 minutes.
6) Once you are ready to serve, garnish with chopped coriander leaves.