Prawn Okra Curry (Chennai Prawn Vendaki)

I am a big MasterChef Australia fan. The participants, judges and guests, variety of fresh ingredients, delicious food, inspiring innovation and altogether great attitude - all are so amazing. It's a great show to get some inspiration as well as useful cooking tips. I wrote this recipe down while watching a MasterChef class, probably, from season 2. The recipe is by Kumar Mahadevan. At that time, I was not very familiar with Tamil food (well, to be honest, I'm still not) and I was intrigued by this dish. I had to taste it! It did require some preparation, a little bit more effort and some loving - not something I would make after a loooong day in the office - but the result was surprisingly good from the very first attempt. I made it on several occasions since then and my hubby has nominated it as one of his favourite curries that I make :) Thank you Kumar!
It came out a little pale this time, but Kashmiri chili powder will give it a lovely red colour. In case you cannot get okra where you live, you may try making it with, for example, string beans.

You will need:
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

100 g shallots (or red onion), chopped
100 g okra, trim and make small incision on one side

1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 generous tsp coriander powder
2 tsp red chili powder (or according to taste)
2 tomatoes, diced
~1 tbsp tamarind pulp

100 g ground coconut
2 tbsp chana dal (yellow split peas)

12-15 large prawns, cleaned (you can leave the heads and tails on for more flavour)
a couple sprigs of curry leaves

2-3 dried red chilies
oil for frying
salt to taste

1. Heat some oil, add the mustard seeds and fry on high heat till they stop popping. Add the fenugreek and cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds. Add the shallots/onion and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the okra, sprinkle with salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the okra and keep it aside.

2. Next, add the turmeric, coriander and red chili powders, add ~400 ml of water and bring it to a boil. Add the tamarind pulp and tomatoes, mix well, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for around 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, grind the coconut and chana dal in a food processor adding ~150 ml of water.

4. Next, add the prawns to the sauce, sprinkle with salt, cover and cook for another 3 minutes.

5. Stir in the coconut paste, add back the cooked okra and add half of the curry leaves. Mix it gently, cover the lid and continue cooking while you prepare the tempering.

6. For the tempering, heat some oil in a small pan and fry the dried red chilies on high flame till black and blistered. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining curry leaves to the hot oil. Pour the tempering into the curry, cover the lid and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve hot with rice.


Indonesian spicy-sweet&sour prawn curry

Ahh simple pleasures of life - spicy, sweet and sour prawn curry from Indonesia for a lazy Saturday lunch! This curry is popular throughout Indonesia and is known as Udang asam pedas. I have made it several times, with prawn and with fish fillet, and we get excited eating it every time :) So flavourful and comforting! You can control the spiciness with the amount of chilies you use to suit your taste. Sourness comes from tomatoes and tamarind water, which gives a lovely flavour, but can be substituted with lemon/lime juice, if you cannot get it. The sweetness comes from the onions as we are going to use lots of it! A nice addition to garnish is deep-fried shallots, which I didn't have this time. You can also prepare the prawns and the sauce in advance and keep them separately for serving later - just heat up the sauce and once hot, add the prawns and finish cooking. Serve it with steaming rice, flat breads or noodles and fresh salad.

You will need:
12-16 big prawns, cleaned (you can leave tails on)
~1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of chili powder

3 large onions, diced
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbs of finely chopped ginger
2-6 chilies, cut lengthwise, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 tsp of coriander powder
6-8 ripe tomatoes, skinned (optional) and diced
4-6 tbs tamarind water (lime/lemon juice)
salt to taste
oil for frying

chopped spring onion & deep-fried shallots for garnishing

1. Mix the prawns with salt, turmeric powder and chili powder and let it marinate for 10-15 minutes. Heat the oil and fry the prawns in batches for around 2 minutes on high heat (we will finish cooking them in the sauce). Remove the prawns from the pan and put them on paper towel.

2. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a wok/large pan and fry the onions stirring often for around 10 minutes, till they are soft and just start browning. Add the garlic, ginger and chilies and stir-fry for another minute. Add coriander powder and stir-fry for a minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and tamarind water, mix it well and let it cook for around 5-7 minutes on low heat (or till the tomatoes are soft). Adjust the seasoning.

3. Finally, add the prawns and cook it for another 3-4 minutes, or till the prawns are cooked through. Garnish with spring onions and deep-fried shallots and serve immediately.


Prawn and pumpkin coconut milk curry (Konju Pulungari)

This is a Kerala dish called Konju Pulungari. "Konju" means prawns and "pulungari" is a curry with coconut milk and something sour, either vinegar or tamarind. Pumpkin is a festival vegetable in South India. This dish is originally made without spinach. But we tried making it with spinach and it complimented the smoothness of the coconut milk and sweetness of the pumpkin very well. Very very satisfying and it takes so little time and effort to make it. Serve it over a bowl of steamy basmati rice. If you cannot get curry leaves, just skip them. Yet again, this is great comfort food!

You will need:

500 gr prawns, cleaned
150 gr pumpkin [red, if you're in India], cut into medium size cubes
a handful of spinach, coarsely chopped
400 ml coconut milk
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2.5 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
2 green chilies, halved lenghtwise (remove seeds for a milder version)
10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of vinegar
200 ml of water
salt to taste
oil for frying

1. Heat some oil in a pot and first fry the mustard and cumin seeds until the mustard seeds start popping.

2. Next, add the curry leaves, ginger, chilies and onion and fry on a medium flame until the onion softens and becomes translucent (don't let it brown, reduce the flame if needed).

2. Add turmeric powder, salt to taste and pumpkin cubes, mix it well and fry for another couple of minutes.

3. Pour coconut milk and water, bring it to a boil and cook until the pumpkin softens. Stir occasionally.

4. Finally, add the prawns and spinach, mix it and cook for up to 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Add one teaspoon of vinegar and mix it well, taste for salt.

Serve it over rice or with white bread.