Growing up in Indian coastal region always meant we could guarantee the produce was fresh, very much local and seasonal. Seafood has been part of the staple diet for those living in cities across Maharashtra, Bengal also regions of Southern India. My mum revelled in all the abundance of fresh prawns, crabs and fish. Even today cooking the family a meal with fresh fish always makes her happy. Buying in bulk, stocking up on variety and cooking up a feast for the weekend was the done thing. I have in previous posts written about my visits to local fish markets when I was younger. There was fish curry, fried prawns, stuffed fish, fried crabs and also spicy fried roe. Most recipes my mother cooks are based around infuences from where my family are based (Maharashtra) and also handed down from my grandmother/ great grandmother (who were both very much fond of good food and cooked some amazing meals in the 1940’s & 50’s in Mumbai) Maharashtra is a massive region in itself on the west coast of India and Mumbai is just a small snippet of the gorgeous food this region offers. Our food and the variety of dishes stem across the region including flavours from Malwan, Pune, Nagpur and Solapur to name a few. Mainly based around the community where my family hails from which is Pathare Prabhu’s and Brahmins. The former is where seafood is very much part of the diet and the latter where my influences for hearty Indian vegetarian fare comes from with the inclusion of sweet & tart flavours to the food.
Living in the UK, I’m fortunate to have some of the freshest variety on offer across the North east coastline. This recipe for Marathi Kolambi Masala needs chunky sweet, good sized prawns that can stand up to all the robust flavours of the spices & chillies with the contrasting textures of grated coconut. This dish is rustic and although the list of ingredients seem long I assure you tucking into every bite of the ‘kolambi’/ prawns coated in the thick coconut sauce with soft chapattis and some raita in tow is nothing short of delicious.
350gm large prawns shelled and deveined
1 tsp turmeric powder
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
10 curry leaves
1 medium white onion finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or mild paprika; add a little less if you prefer)
1 tbsp malt vinegar
Pinch of sugar
50mls coconut milk (I tend to use the coconut powder to make up required quantities of coconut milk)
Fresh coriander for garnish
for the spice powder;
4 dried red chillies (mild variety)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1” cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 heaped tbsp coriander seeds
4 green cardamom (seeds only)
2 black cardamom (seeds only)
For the paste;
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion finely sliced
100gms fresh grated coconut (available in asian stores)
Place the prawns in a bowl with the turmeric and salt. Mix well and set aside while you make the spice powder and paste.
Heat a small frying pan and roast all the spice powder ingredients for 7-10 mins on a low heat. Stir every few minutes until they start to release their aroma and change colour. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a coffee/ spice grinder.
For the paste heat the tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Fry the sliced onion on medium heat for 7-10 minutes. As it starts to turn light brown add the grated coconut. Fry for 12-15 minutes stirring frequently. The coconut will start to change colour to a light brown as well. Turn the heat off. Cool the mix and add to a blender with some water to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
To make the curry; heat the oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Add half the curry leaves letting them splutter for a few seconds. Add the onions and fry on a medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes; they will begin to soften. At this stage add the coconut paste and fry for 3-4 minutes it will start to leave oil from the sides of the pan. Add 2 tbsp of spiced powder along with the chilli powder and stir well frying for a couple of minutes. Now tip in the prawns and cook and simmer for 2-3 minutes until they start to turn opaque and just cooked through. Add the vinegar, sugar and check for seasoning. Also add the coconut milk and the remaining curry leaves. Simmer for a further minute. Turn the heat off garnish with fresh coriander & lemon juice. Serve with a choice of Indian bread or steamed rice.