Lobster Curry- From across the Palk Strait.

There is a certain romance about curries. The joy of breaking a buttered naan into a thick, redolent butter chicken gravy is difficult to put to prose. Down south, you have crisp rice rotis playing a demure foil to the fiery kori ghassi in Mangalore ; while brown rice or appams marry well with the keralan meen moillee. I could go on and on about curries and their pairings with rice or some sort of bread. Point is, across the world, curries form an intrinsic part of the meal; or should i say, they complete the meal.

For us Mangaloreans, fish curry and rice is the raison d’etre. It was in my household too. I didnt like curry so much personally; but, I made and exception for the Kori ghassi (chicken curry). What interested me more was the process by which the curry was made. I would eagerly sit beside my mai (grandmother) as she scraped the coconut, and swiftly grab some and eat it, only to be reprimanded by a stern “Ummm”, not because i took the coconut. but she was scared that I’d hurt myself. Then she’d measure the spices with her fingers and then came the rhythmic grunting of the huge stone (we call it waan in konkani). Then the tempering and an amazing curry was ready. What amazed me though was the consistency with which she got the colour and texture of the curry same, each and everytime. A trait her daughter, my mother has inherited. And I am only smiling ūüôā

And if you haven’t guessed as yet, I am going to share with you a recipe for a curry. This is a curry from across the Palk Strait, Sri Lanka to be precise. I went to Sri Lanka on a holiday last year and i was totally enamoured by the scenic beauty and the food. To be fair, the food isn’t much different from the food in south India but the ample and deft use of spices is where the difference lies. SO if you are well versed with South Indian food, Sri Lankan food isnt a difficult nut to crack. This isn’t my recipe but I’ve adapted this one from a recipe by Peter Kuruvita. The original recipe used squid or cuttlefish. Lobsters rendered themselves well to. I loved the addition of coconut milk to the gravy, rich and thick and creamy. We had it with brown rice that suited the spicy curry perfectly well.

I strongly recommend you try this one, you can write and tell me how you liked it.

Lobster Curry.jpg

Lobster Curry- Sri Lankan Style.

You will need

  • 10-12 Baby Lobsters

For the marination:

  • 2 teaspoons – pepper powder
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 4 teaspoons red chilli powder (tone down or up depending on how much heat you can take)
  • 2 teaspoons Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
  • 3-4 fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon corriander powder

For the curry:

  • 80 ml coconut oil
  • few sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small piece of ginger, minced
  • 3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli powder
  • 1 cup of 2nd extract of coconut
  • 60 ml, 1st extract of coconut
  • salt to taste

Method:

  • Wash, clean and devein the lobsters.
  • In a large vessel combine the ingredients mentioned under marination along with the lobsters and keep aside.
  • In another pot, heat the coconut oil and add the curry leaves.
  • Once the leaves start to splutter, add the onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies and cook till the onions are browned well
  • Now, add the red chilli powder and mix well. If you see the pan getting dry , sprinkle a few drops of water.
  • Now add the 2nd extract of coconut and salt. Cover and cook for 10-12 mins till the lobsters are done.
  • Reduce the flame to to the lowest you can to bring down the temperature and take the vessel of the heat and add in the first extract of coconut. Give it a good mix and take of flame immediately.
  • Serve hot with brown rice.

Pro -tip: Use the first extract of coconut milk ONLY towards the end. And make sure the flame isn’t high cause if you cook the coconut link for too long it will curdle and look terrible.

 

 

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Salt and Pepper Prawns

Sometimes, just out of nowhere comes a moment that makes you smile. A moment that makes you feel its all worth the effort. One such moment came in recently when Mina from The United States wrote me this wonderful email and i was delirious.

Dear Elson,

Greetings! 
My Name is Mina and I’m from the United States. I’ve been following your blog for a while now, silently hoping to be able to re-create the wonderful Indian dishes you post. But, I’m writing for an other reason. I had a few of my husbands Italian friends come over for dinner the other day and I decided to prepare the Sicilian Style Fish in White wine.. (I used tilapia fish though) and the Alio E Olio. I must say, my guest were very impressed with my Italian cooking. It all came together like the wonderful notes in a music sheet. But, all thanks to you.

Thank you so much for your wonderful posts and the wonderful stories you tell through them.. I have spoken about your blog to my friends at work and their hooked as well.. Much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin (or India) must I say..

Do keep writing more often

Reader emails like these, my dear friends, are food for the recipe bloggers soul. In blogging, what we usually consider a solitary affair; mails (or calls or texts) like these make you want to do more and keep challenging your limits. I wanted to celebrate this with a post on fish. But, over the past couple of days, for some strange reason; there was no fish in the market. I felt like what Sachin Tendulkar must have felt in the long wait between his 99th and 100th hundred. Each walk from the pavilion to the crease heightened expectations of his team-mates, media and scores of fans, each trip to the fish market result in a crestfallen return trip back home and whatever little was available, was not worth digging into your pockets. After many to and fro trips, I seen some fabulous looking prawns. Being unable to resist, I checked the price. My fears came true. Too steep an amount. This, I felt, was going to be another wasted market trip. I walked a few steps away, the fish monger called out and asked if I was willing to buy all she was willing to give it away. I fell for it. Within a blink, I marched back home with my prized catch with an expression of having won the world cup.

The prawns were medium sized, bit large to be dunked into a curry and small enough to stay away from a Asian stir fry. But what I knew for sure was that they just needed very simple flavours and that would be it. I decided to make the Vietnamese style Salt and Pepper. Don’t be surprised if you’ve seen them in Chinese restaurants. This salt and pepper style stir fry actually originated in Vietnam and moved northward to the Chinese Mainland. Simple flavors that make the prawns the hero of the dish.

I had with with two of my good friends, a Mumbai Indians, IPL cricket match and a chilled can of beer to beat the heat. Doesn’t get better right.

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams, medium sized prawns (Should be about 12-15)
  • 2 large tablespoons, cornflour
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, Chinese five spice powder
  • Oil – sufficient for frying the prawns + 2 teaspoons extra
  • 1 teaspoon, Chinese rice wine.
  • Few sprigs of cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper(crushed), generous helpings

Procedure:

  • Clean, shell and de-vein the prawns and keep aside.
  • Mix the salt, pepper powder and the Chinese five spice powder and keep aside.
  • Make a semi dry mixture, using the corn flour, 1 teaspoon oil and two teaspoons water. Coat each prawn well with this batter.
  • Heat sufficient oil in a pan till it is nice and hot. Fry the prawns in the oil, for a minute till the colour of the batter changes. Take out from oil and drain on a paper towel.
  • Take out the oil from the pan and just retain a teaspoon of the oil.
  • Add the garlic and chilli. Fry till the garlic changes colour.
  • Add the prawns and give it a quick stir.
  • Now, add the rice wine and stir. Parallely, sprinkle the spice mix and stir well.
  • Add the chopped cilantro and mix.
  • Serve hot with a sprinkling of the spice mix.

 

Pad Thai (Thailand)- The World on My Plate Series!

 

Almost two decades ago, when¬†Chinese¬†food first came to the country; there was a barrage of dark red carts all over the streets. Over the years, the Indian¬†palette¬†was bombarded with MSG coated dishes. Then came Thai food, which some of my friends described as “Kooch Chinese Jaisa” (Something like¬†Chinese), but very spicy. Thankfully, with the internet coming in and the advancement in travel, that trend changed. Today, fine dines and even normal restaurants are trying to replicate authentic Chinese and Thai food.¬†

Coming to the point, I have tried my hand at many a Chinese dishes and with a reasonable amount of success. But I always believed that cooking Thai food is an art. Literally. Achieving the right balance of flavours, the texture and some of the ingredients, which until recently were exotic and purchasing them would mean you pay and arm and a leg. Made sense to actually drop by at the nearest Thai restaurant or takeaway and grab a bite. But then, it left you with a sense of void, a feeling that this same bowl of curry should be replicated at home. It should be!! I waited for an opportune moment.

The World on my plate gave me the opportunity. As I read, spoke, tweeted, I realised there was a dish that is symbolic to Thai street food as the two versions of curries.The choice was made; the dish that would be Pad Thai(pronounced Pud- Tha-e). Strangely for its status symbol is very rarely cooked in Thai homes. It is more of a street food and is available for as less as a dollar. So, I decided to go the entire way and make it with prawns. Personally, I have faith that prawns can single handedly make anything taste good.

The path was not as difficult as I thought.  All went as per plan and the rice noodles which I was making for the first time, behaved like a well mannered school kid, turning out just the way I liked. How did it Pad Thai fare? All of us wished there were more noodles that night. 

Give it a try, It will be fun. And whatever you do, dont break the noodles, they represent long life.

 

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Pad Thai

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pack Glass Noodles (or rice Noodles)-¬†Refer Note 1 below
  • 5 tablespoons Pad Thai Sauce-¬†Refer Note 2 below
  • 3 teaspoons oil
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch, spring onion, ¬†sliced
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1 Thai Chilli, finely chopped Or 2 green chillies
  • 100 grams firm tofu, cut into fine pieces OR use 100 grams of Cottage cheese, Shredded chicken or prawns to suit your taste¬†
  • 50 grams, sprouted beans
  • 2 teaspoons,¬†oyster¬†sauce
  • Juice of Half a lime
  • 80 grams unsalted peanuts, crushed.
  • Few¬†coriander¬†leaves, for garnishing

Method:

  • Cook the noodles as instructed on the pack and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a wok and when the oil is smoking hot, add the garlic and saute till it is aromatic.
  • Next add the spring onions, chillies, bean sprouts and carrots do quick stirs. Then add the tofu (or chicken, prawn, cottage cheese) and mix well.
  • Add the noodles, the oyster sauce and the Pad Thai sauce and give a good mix so that all the vegetables are coated well with the sauce.
  • Sprinkle the lime juice and toss the peanuts.
  • Garnish with corriander leaves and serve immediately.

Important Notes

  1. Cooking the rice noodles: Most packs available at super/ hyper markets will have instructions on cooking the noodles. Please follow the instructions carefully, as the rice noodles tend to get squishy very quickly. Incase the pack doesnt have instructions, all you need to do is heat sufficient water to boiling point. Then take it off the heat and immerse the noodles in the water, till they are soft and a bit chewy and not mushy. The rest of the cooking will be done in the wok.
  2. Pad Thai Sauce: This Sauce is actually the base of this dish and this is what gives the right balance of all flavors. Ready made Pad Thai sauces are available at online gourmet stores and super/ hypermarkets. But, if you like me, prefer making your own seasonings, here is how to make it. Soak tamarind (about the size of a tennis ball) in 100 ml warm water for a few minutes. Discard the seeds and squeeze the juice from the pulp.  Add in 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or soya sauce), 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar) and 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or chilli powder). Heat the mixture in a small sauce pan till it simmers. Remove from flame and cool.

Coastal Style Fish Biryani

If ever there was a dish that unites and divides us Indians it is the Biryani. Rarely in the history of mankind has dish, not native to the land, come in a made a place for itself in the heart of its people. We all know that biryani came to India courtesy the Mughals. Today, centuries after Mughals have long gone, the Biryani still continues to rules our hearts and palletes. I have often wondered what is so unique about this combination of rice and meat. The answer is simple. Across the length and breadth of this country, the biryani has integrated with the local flavours and suited tastes. You will not find a similar biryani anywhere in the country. So, while on one hand you have the gentler, more of ¬†meat, oil based ones in the north, Lucknow to be precise¬†where it is known as the ‚ÄúPakki (fully cooked) Biryani‚ÄĚ.¬†¬†The cooking process here involves cooking the marinated meat and rice separately and then layering it together and cooking it on dum (steam). You then have the larger than life, biryani from Hyderabad where you would come across the ‚ÄúKachchi (raw) Biryani‚ÄĚ. Here, the rice (which is cooked al-dente) and meat are layered together and then given a dum. Move eastwards, towards Kolkatta and you will find the¬†Kolkatta styled¬†biryani, easy on the spice, generous helping of potatoes and with a lower proportion of meat.¬†¬†Here, the biryani will be more often than not be accompanied by the chap or rezaala. In, Mumbai, on the west coast you have the spicier variety with varying degrees of meat and rice to suit the Mumbai taste.¬†

The true test of a biryani is how the rice is cooked. It is essential to keep a hawk eye on the rice while it is being cooked. The usual method is to cook it till it is about three-fourths done and done while it cooks on dum, you have each grain proudly standing out, vying for attention and wanting to tell you a story. The meat is usually marinated in curds before cooking. This forms the perfect bite when you take in a morsel of rice, covered in the masala and then melt in the mouth meat. Truly, this is a moment  that needs to be savoured.

Usually, when there is talk of a biryani, the combination is usually that of rice and meat. You would not associate something as delicate as fish with such an elaborate method of cooking. While I was discussing with a friend the other day the concept of a fish biryani, he joked that fish biryani would probably have been invented in a coastal area like Kerala or Goa. I so wanted to add Mangalore to the list, for obvious reasons you see. Some research and bit of experimentation, I finally cracked the code to a fish biryani; what I also managed to do was integrate into it some coastal flavors. Usually, curd is used to marinate the meat and as a base for the gravy. I substituted  the curds with another coastal staple, coconut milk. The end result was a creamy and sturdier gravy. The coconut milk also helped balance the spice giving it a nice even taste. Another change I made was not marinating but gently frying the fish. That helps to give the fish a slightly firmer texture that helped when cooking the fish in the gravy.

In all earnest, which ever biryani works for you, the best thing to do is go through the entire process of cooking the biryani, whilst doing so savour the aroma and once done, dig in and enjoy a meal fit for royalty.

Coastal Styled FIsh Biryani1

Coastal Styled Fish Biryani

Ingredients

For the rice

  • 2 cups long grained rice
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 1 Inch cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  • 3-cloves
  • 3-4 pepper corns
  • 1 black cardamon
  • salt to taste
  • A pinch of orange food colouring mixed with 20 ml water or milk.

For the Biryani Masala

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped (Increase the quantity if you want it spicier)¬†
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste¬†
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons Biryani Masala Powder (I used Everest Biryani Masala)¬†
  • 1¬†tablespoon tumeric powder (haldi)¬†
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala powder¬†
  • 1¬†large tablespoon¬†cumin¬†seeds
  • 200 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch of corriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Bundle of Mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste

Grind to a paste

  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 10 ¬†cloves garlic
  • 2 green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 3-4 pepper corns
  • 1 teaspoon¬†coriander leaves¬†

For frying the fish:

  • 5 pieces of any firm fleshed fish (I used kingfish)
  • plain red chilli powder to taste¬†
  • turmeric powder
  • Juice of one lime¬†
  • salt
  • Oil for frying

For the Garnishing

  • 2 large onions, sliced finely
  • 10-15 cashews, slivered
  • 5-10 almonds, slivered
  • 10 -12 raisins
  • Ghee/ Oil to fry
  • Few Mint leaves
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Salt

Procedure:

To prepare the fish:

  • Wash the fish and pat it dry.
  • Add the lime juice, salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder to the fish and rub well. Keep aside for an hour or so.
  • Now, heat oil in a pan and fry the marinated fish for about 3 minutes a side. You don’t need to entirely cook the dish at this stage.
  • Once done, remove and drain on absorbent paper and keep aside.

To prepare the rice:

  • Heat 4 cups of water in a large vessel and bring to a boil. Tie the whole masala in a small muslin cloth and drop in the boiling water.
  • Soak the rice in water for about 15 minutes. Then wash under running water till the water runs clear.
  • Add the rice to the boiling water and cook for sometime till you see fluffy grains of rice. Don’t stir the rice at this time since you may end up breaking the grains. Add salt and cook till the rice is cooked al dente (75% done)
  • Drain the rice using a colander and make sure the rice is completely devoid of any moisture. Leave it open in a dry place and do not cover the rice
  • Take about a handful of rice in a seperate vessel. To this, add the water in which we had mixed the food colouring and mix well so that the rice absorbs the colour entirely

To prepare the garnishing:

  • Heat oil in sufficiently large frying pan on medium heat.
  • Add the sliced onions and give it a mix so that the oil covers the onions well. Add the salt.
  • Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes till the onions turn reddish brown in colour.
  • Take out from the heat and cover and drain on an absorbent paper.
  • In the same pan, add the cashews, almonds and fry till they turn reddish brown. Once done, take out from heat and drain on an absorbent paper

To prepare the biryani masala: 

  • In a large vessel, heat the oil and add the whole spices, curry leaves and allow them to splutter.¬†
  • When the spices begin spluttering and releasing aroma, add the chopped onions and let them cook till they turn golden brown. Add the ginger, garlic pastes along with the chillies. At this point add half the onions that we had fried. We will retain the other half for garnishing.
  • Once the onions are done, add the chopped tomato and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and limp.
  • Add the green paste along with very little water. Saute this on a medium flame till the oil begins to leave the sides.
  • Lower the heat and add the coconut milk and mix well. Once the mixture has integrated well add the spice powders. Mix well.
  • Add the fish, and stir gently so that we don’t break the fish fillets/ pieces.
  • Once done, add the chopped corriander and mint leaves.

To assemble the biryani:

  • Line a large vessel with ghee/ oil.
  • Add the gravy mixture. Now add in one half of the onions we had fried earlier and some of the fried cashews, almonds and raisins.
  • Layer the gravy mixture with the cooked rice. Sprinkle the surface with the rice that was mixed with food colouring.
  • Finish the layering with the remaining fried onions and dried fruits.
  • Cover the vessel with a lid that fits perfectly. Or you could cover with aluminium foil so that no steam escapes.
  • Place the vessel on a tawa and cook for 30-40 minutes on a medium flame. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes ¬†after you’ve turned off the gas.
  • Serve hot with raita.

Singapore Black Pepper Prawns

One of the best things about living in Mumbai is the access to a variety of seafood. Now, for someone like me who loves seafood, prawns are the ultimate comfort food. The other day, my mum happened to get some absolutely lovely king prawns and I almost jumped with joy and excitement.

Considering how versatile prawns are, the question was what to make of them. Many options were considered, ‚ÄúPrawns Ghassi‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúJhinga Tandoori‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúPrawns Biryani‚ÄĚ were very close contenders, but we also realized that it was a while since we had some Oriental food and so, we decided to cook something that is synonymous with Singapore, the ‚ÄúSingapore Black Pepper Prawns‚ÄĚ.IMG_1460

For those of you who have visited Singapore, there is no way you have missed the two culinary landmarks there, ‚ÄúSingapore Chilli Crab‚ÄĚ &‚ÄúSingapore Black Pepper Prawns‚ÄĚ. Strangely, I tasted this not on a trip to Singapore, but in Dubai. The hotel where I stayed had an awesome Oriental restaurant. One of the nice things of the place was the chef would recommend the dish to suit your preference and to a certain extent customize your order. Considering it was so heavily spiced with pepper, I was a bit apprehensive at first, but two bites later, I was already in love with the combination. Let me tell you, it almost set my tongue on fire but it was worth every bit.

The only seasoning is the pepper and that actually carries the dish along and the oyster sauce lends the oomph. My suggestion is to use King prawns, they go well with the ruggedness of the pepper and that sudden blast of spice just at the back of your head will make it an experience you will want to come back again and again.

Please do give it a try, I‚Äôm Sure you‚ÄĚll enjoy it!

Singapore Black Pepper Prawns

Ingredients:

  • 600 grams King Prawns (please retain the tail)
  • ¬Ĺ ¬†cup whole black peppercorns (If you like it more spicier, increase the quantity)
  • 10 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh Ginger, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Peanut oil
  • 2 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • Spring Onions Greens ‚Äď for garnishing

Procedure:

  • Dry roast the pepper corns till they begin to crackle. Remove from the flame and grind them coarsely.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok. When the oil is hot, add in the prawns and toss lightly till they turn pink. This will take about a minute on high flame.
  • Now, add the remaining oil in the wok and add in the garlic and ginger and fry till they change colour.
  • Add both the sauces (Oyster & Soya) and stir well. Add the water and mix well.
  • Now add the prawns and stir so that the prawns are covered well with the sauce.
  • It‚Äôs now time to add the pepper and mix well.
  • Serve hot, garnished with the spring onion greens.

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