Kerala coconut prawn curry

This curry is typical of coconut-based curries that you find on the beautiful Kerala coast of Southern India. It has the perfect balance of spicy, sweet and sour flavours. Served with steamed basmati rice and a simple Indian-style salad or raita, this is an elegant and effortless way to entertain in winter. This curry also works well with cubed firm-fleshed fish instead of, or as well as, the prawns. 

Preparation and cooking time: 35 minutes 

Ingredients:

4 small tomatoes, quartered 

5 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped 

20 g fresh ginger (about 4 cm), peeled and roughly chopped

2 Tbsp coconut or vegetable oil  

1 tsp black mustard seeds 

4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle

10 black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle 

20 fresh curry leaves, torn from their branch

1 large red onion, finely chopped 

2 large green chillies, left whole and pierced in a few places 

1 tsp sea salt 

1 tsp ground turmeric 

1 Tbsp ground coriander seed

1 tsp ground cumin 

½–1 teaspoon chilli powder, to taste

400 mL can coconut milk or light coconut cream 

1 cup water

1 walnut-sized piece of tamarind with seeds, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes  

2 tsp brown sugar, to taste 

600 g fresh prawn meat, deveined  

Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve 

Directions:

  1. Blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger together in a small food processor to a rough paste and set aside.

  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the mustard seeds, and once they have popped, add the cardamom, peppercorns and fresh curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the onion and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and golden around the edges. 

  3. Add the blended tomato mixture, fresh chillies, salt and all the ground spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often,  until thick and fragrant, adding a splash of water if the pan is getting too dry.

  4. Stir in the coconut milk and 1 cup of water and simmer for another 5–10 minutes, or until the consistency of cream.

  5. Massage the tamarind pulp in the bowl with the water and strain through a fine sieve so the tamarind water goes straight into the pan. Add the sugar, stir well to combine and then add the prawn meat. Simmer very gently until the prawns are just cooked, about 2–3 minutes.

  6. Taste, adding a little more salt, chilli or sugar to suit your taste. Serve scattered with the fresh coriander leaves. 

Tips:

You'll find Indian spice stores dotted throughout Australian suburbs and regional towns. These stores are a treasure trove of spices, fresh curry leaves and herbs, chutneys and other exotic ingredients — at very reasonable prices.

Have fun exploring and stock up on a range of spices so you always have them on hand to create an authentic curry.   

Recipe developed by award-winning cook and food writer Andrea Ball