Speculoos Tiramisu

If I had known that tiramisu was this simple to make, I wouldn’t have waited this long to make it. I’v been tracking bloggers who have been making tiramisu ever since it became the darling dessert of most food bloggers. I missed the joining the tiramisu wave, although the web was buzzing with tiramisu recipes the whole of last year . Ranging from the detailed version I’v seen on purplefoodie to the gorgeous one on ediblegarden, its been tempting me time and again.

So when we did our groceries two weeks back, I randomly picked up a pack of mascarpone, convincing myself that I’d get down to it, if I saw the package sitting in the fridge to remind me. As it always happens, the package languished for two weeks and suddenly in a fit of inspiration, and finding myself some free time in the evening yesterday, I pulled it out and went through a few bookmarked recipes for inspiration. And then it struck me, why not make the speculoos version of it? I had a pack of speculoos biscuits sitting idle and have heard that biscuits can substitute the ladyfingers or savoiardi biscuits, that are typically used in tiramisu.

So then in a flurry of activity, and around 20 minutes later, this popped up on my counter:

So without much ado, here’s my version of cheat’s tiramisu. Purists may balk, but I went ahead and substituted speculoos biscuits instead of savoiardi, omitted the kahlua and Nay, did not may my mascarpone cheese from scratch. But it was ohhh so delicious, if I may say, the best tiramisu ever. And the hubby oohed and aahed, which is rare becasue hes not very fond of desserts (!!). He especially loved the slight bitterness of the coffee that contrasts the sweetness of the speculoos and the sweetened cheese.

Speculoos biscuits:

Speculoos Tiramisu
4 eggs at room temperature, yolks and and whites separated and collected in two separate bowls
4 teaspoons powdered demerara (brown) sugar, can be substituted with white
12 speculoos biscuits* (or use the real deal – ladyfinger biscuits if you have them)
350 gms Mascarpone cheese (go for the best quality you can buy, I used Galbani)
1/2 cup espresso, freshly brewed
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa for dusting

Start by whisking the egg yolks together. Add the sugar and whisk till sugar blends in. Add the mascarpone cheese and combine till uniform consistency.
Then beat the egg whites till stiff peaks are formed (using a hand mixer with a whisk attachment).
Add the stiff whites to the yolk-cheese mixture and gently fold it in.
Keep aside.

Now start assembling. Take a biscuit, quickly dip it in the espresso, so that it is just soaked and then lay it on a plate. Do the same with 3 more, so that you have the base layer of 4 biscuits forming a rectangle. Top this with one more layer of soaked biscuits. Then spread the mascarpone mix in a layer over this base. Over this, repeat with one more layer of soaked biscuits. Top with one layer of mascarpone mix.
Using a strainer, dust the cocoa powder over the top layer.

Stand up and appreciate the work of art. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or best overnight. Make the hubby taste it and he will forget about the semi-finals of the EPL that are being telecast live.

True story.

*Note: Speculoos biscuits are a Dutch / Belgian specialty and has a mild ginger and nutmeg flavour to it. It can be substituted with any other biscuit that is neutral in flavour and will not crumble easily when dunked in the espresso, so any tea-time biscuit would serve the purpose. But vary the sugar that you use in the cheese depending on the sweetness of the biscuit. Speculoos are relatively sweeter that most tea-times biscuits.


Eating (and drinking) our way through Bruges

Brugge or Bruges (the former the Flemish name, the latter, French) was not a place that I was particularly excited about seeing. After having seen Amsterdam and Dusseldorf, Cologne, it gets a little predictable – the horse drawn carriages, cobbled streets, the pre-war architecture, the churches, the feeling of being in a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, yadda yadda.

So I was somewhat sceptical when we made our plans to visit Brugge (I prefer the Flemish name to the French), and read up a bit about what to expect, in the hope of finding something that jumped out as being different. I also watch Rick Steves’ video on youtube and the places he suggested (he recommends trying Dumon cholocates and the Chocolate Line, in case you were wondering). But it was all falling into that familiar pattern of churches – marketsquare – cobbled streets – breweries…. you get the drift.

But staying for a weekend there, Brugge knocked the sceptic out of me.

So why am I waxing so lyrical about this very touristy town?The pictures I took tell half the story of the town. What the pictures can’t describe is the way the dreamy wonderland casts a spell, simply by the warmth of its friendly people, and the beauty that lies in every little shop window, every little nook and corner.

And the food, oh my God the food.

We started at the station itself, wolfing down waffles in chocolate sauce and Flemish fries in curry sauce at a small restaurant that was part of a chain. And the hubby kept laughing at me becasue I just kept nodding my head and saying “These are the best fries ever” and then a minute later “these are the best waffles ever”.

If you plan to go to Brugge, do try this one place called Cambrinus, which I believe is something of a local legend. They have around 400 beers (!) on the menu. But the one thing that Maria, the owner of our homestay, recommended (I’ll come to Maria in a bit) was the rabbit stew. “Incomparabile” she said. And so we tried it and it was indeed, incomparable, slow cooked in prunes and beer and served with applesauce. And not to gloss over the rabbit stew itself, but the side dish of potato balls that came with it was also, in my opinion, “ïncomparabile”. We also had a salmon and asparagus salad and a fine tiramisu, but it was the rabbit that outran (ha ha ) everything else.

When in Belgium, you can’t resist trying out the chocolates, which are beyond par, by the way. We tried the cuban cigar (very good, mild cigar flavour) and chilli (no particlar chilli taste) chocolates at The Chocolate Line and packed a slab to bake with for later.

A few things that caught my eye:

Speculoos! Have been in love with the spreads ever since I heard about them in the purplefoodie. The biscuit is nice, but the spreads are what get me. Belgium, the birth place of speculoos. You can read about more on this delicious biscuit here.

Unique vinegar flavours

And the breakfast that we had at Maria’s house:

A hearty English breakfast, homemade jam, omelettes, bread, pate and flavoured butter, with tea and coffee. Peppered with conversation. Maria, a wonderfully charming, ebullient matronly lady, who stole my heart with her beautiful house, where we were lucky to stay as guests. If you ever do visit Brugge, please avoid the touristy hotels and go for a bed and breakfast experience. Preferably at Maria’s charming villa , Het Colletienje, which she lets out to guests. And if you are lucky, like we were, you get to hear about the many adventures she had, including her “Incredible”trip to India. She lived in Italy for several years we had a lovely time chatting over breakfast – us in English and she in a mix of Italian and Flemish and English – and seeing her family albums. A wonderful lady who left a lasting impression.

Notes: prices mentioned on hostelworld and other sites do not mention that the breakfast is part of the package, bonus!

In general, my recommendation to a person travelling to Brugge would be to walk around, and try not to be too spell bound by the first beautiful shop that you see such as this one:

Becasue then you will see one that is even prettier like this one:

And try not to stuff yourself with too much fries (dammit they are too good), because you need to make some space for the kriek beer (cherry flavoured beer), or one of the many local tap beers.

And when you tire of all the beauty around you and the food inside you, then you may want to visit one of the several churches, in particular the Chapel of the Holy Blood of Jesus, where the relics of the blood of Christ lie, and the Madonna of Bruges, which has the only Michealangelo Pieta sculpture outside of Italy.

Parting words:
Avoid the GroteMarkt for eating, drinking and souvenir shopping, because this main square is extremely crowded and over-priced. Try to walk the city, instead of a guided tour or a cycle. Its a city best enjoyed on foot.

Rugelach…and a happy new year!

The first time I made these baked treats,  I made them on a lark, since my oven was getting packed up to be shipped half-way across the country, and I really wanted to bake something in it one last time. So I flipped through the baking bible, otherwise known as this,  and chanced upon these gorgeous Yiddish cookies. With cream cheese at its heart, and chocolate, assorted nuts, and raisins giving it its bite and flavor, these cookies are like no other.

They were a hit at the office and a hit with my friends, and had my home smelling of cinnamon long after they were out of the oven. Well done, little cookie!

This time around, I did a little play on the Rugelach. Instead of making them twisties, I made them like itsy-bitsy pies. Same taste, more fun! Go make them today and you will thank Dorie Greenspan and her mother-in-law (who was the original inspiration for these cookies).

Rugelach (rolled cookies of Jewish origin)

Recipe source: Baking: From My Home To Yours

For the Dough

4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, but you can use walnuts or almonds)
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the Glaze

1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar

For the Filling

2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Makes 32 cookies

To make the dough:
Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.

Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

To make the filling:
Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)

Traditional shape:

TO SHAPE THE COOKIES: Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

How I made them:

Divide the dough into two portions. Roll both and lay them out.

Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out circles and place these into a greased muffin mould. Glaze the inside of the mould with the jam using a pastry brush, and stuff it with some filling.

Using a small star-shaped cookie cutter, cut stars from the second rolled out piece of dough. Place the stars over the filling in the mould.

Getting ready to bake:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To glaze:
Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

Tea is traditional, but we drink coffee with rugelach. These are pretty and, even with their jam-and-fruit filling, not overly sweet, and they are even good with sparkling wine.

The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

Triple Chocolate Cake for the festive season

Merry Christmas Y’all!

Its been a hectic December. In a good way. After a baking hiatus of six months, one of the first things I did when I landed in Delhi in early December was to fish out my copy of  Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking – From my Home to Yours”. And then pored over the pages in absolute bliss. It soon turned out to be a month of baking excesses.

When I was back in Bangalore, a colleague approached me with the idea of jointly setting up a food stall at a Christmas fete. My mind churned out several ideas over a week, finally settling on cupcakes. So while my friend decided on cooking up Roti John (a Singapore/Malay brekkie favorite, more on that later) and spicy chicken wings and serving them fresh off a griddle, I settled on 3 kinds of cupcakes – German chocolate, chocolate with chocolate butter-cream frosting and vanilla with strawberry butter-cream frosting.

The fete turned out to be more than fun, a lesson in baking and cooking. We landed up learning and un-learing quite a lot.

A few things that we learnt after some spillage, a little mess and some nail biting moments watching several batches of cupcakes rising in the oven:

  • Always keep an entire counter ready when you decide to bake in large quantities. Baking is messy, takes up several ingredients and the more the counter space you can put aside, the better
  • Prepare the wet and dry ingredients separately in separate pans/bowls and whisk in the dry ingredients to the wet gently and in small batches, to avoid lumps in the batter. Yeah, baking is a lesson in patience.
  • Make sure you sieve dry ingredients (baking powder/soda and flour) together to avoid lumps.
  • Eggs should always be used at room temperature, and if adding to a heated liquid (such as melted chocolate, melted butter, etc) bring the liquid to room temperature

After a very successful Christmas fete (with the cupcakes selling out within an hour, whooopee!), we fast forward to a week later, when Christmas takes center stage.

We made this chocolate cake at home with chocolate liqueur ganache, making the cake from the same recipe I used for  the chocolate cupcakes.

It is a dense, rich cake, with 3 chocolate ingredients – cocoa, dark chocolate and chocolate liqueur. If you’re the kind that can handle that much chocolate, then you and me will definitely get along very well!

Triple Chocolate Christmas Cake

For the cake:

Butter (unsalted), cut in pieces – 225 gms
Semi sweet chocolate, chopped – 110 gms (I used Cadbury Bournville, 40% cocoa)
Cocoa powder – 1 cup
All purpose flour (maida) – 1.75 cup
Baking powder – 1.5 tsp
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Eggs (medium size) – 4
Powdered sugar – 1 cup
Brown sugar (demura sugar) – 1/2 cup
Pure vanilla extract – 2 tsp
Fresh cream – 1 cup (I used Amul cream, 25% fat)

For the ganache:

Semi sweet chocolate, chopped – 80 gms
Fresh cream – 1 cup
Chocolate liqueur – 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar – 1/2 cup

Prepare the cake:

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F (177 C). Prepare a 6″X6″ cake pan by coating with butter and dust with flour (alternatively use a good quality baking spray, I use Dr. Oetker). Pre-heat for 15 minutes, before placing the batter in the prepared pan.

2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, in about 30-35 minutes.

6. Cool cakes in pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.

Preparing the ganache:

Heat the cream, chocolate, liqueur and sugar in a double boiler (place a heavy bottom pan with water on the stove and place a dry pan over the simmering water with the ingredients in the pan to melt). Stir the ganache while it cooks. Take it off the heat in around 10 minutes, until evenly combined.

Preparing the cake:

Carefully slice the cake into two, and spread half of the ganache with a rubber spatula over the surface and sides. Sandwich and spread over the top to coat evenly.

You can decorate the cake with ready-made colored marzipan, by rolling it and shaping it into mistletoe.



The Christmas Market at Dusseldorf

I’m headed back to Bangalore in a few days and we’ve been trying to pack in as much on weekends as we possibly can. Last weekend we made a quick day trip to Dusseldorf to see the Christmas market there. A pair of words could never sound better – “Christmas” and “Market” !!! Whooppee! All the way in the train to Germany, carols were going off in my head. Although this time of year is waaaaaay ahead of when we usually start planning for Christmas in my family, I was more than happy to leap onto the early festive wagon.

So, Germany has Christmas markets starting November in all major cities. Dusseldorf has one of the earliest markets, and its the closest to the Germany – Netherlands border.I’m not sure how the markets originated, but Wikipedia tells me that these markets started showing up somewhere during the middle ages. This probably caught on and became popular over time. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see no paid advertisements and plastics banners anywhere, it was such a contrast from the festivals / fairs etc that I’m used to seeing back home.

On the contrary, the market was every bit the winter wonderland it promised to be.

We had read up about the markets and the food (the first thing I googled to check), and I knew before we went that mulled wine (called Gluhwein in German), or wine cooked with spices, was on my list of must-eat/drink. We tried the mulled wine with rum, it had a soothing, warm comforting taste almost like it was patting our heads and saying “there, there”. Or maybe that was the rum talking !

Don’t you love these little knick knacks that you get at fairs? I was happily clicking away at every second stall, felling like a kid in a Christmas market, oh wait, that’s right, I was in a Christmas market (cue for carols to start playing in head).

Some adorable candles, who would be cruel enough to light these ?

I wanted to take this shop that you see below home with me. Would have stomped my feet and thrown up a tantrum if that had worked with the hubby. But he shushed me by handing me a bratwurst (sausage) sandwich. That took my mind off.

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

One of the many many shops selling gingerbread hearts with icing.

Towards night these beautiful stars glowed all over (only wish I had a better picture of them).

Strawberry Jam…

Thank God for local markets. Where heap upon heap of fruits are piled on rough tables, singing out “take me home with you”. Never happened to you? Happens to me every time I’m vegetable shopping. I see bright colors of the fruits in season and get a little light-headed, and it takes me some amount of self control to not scoop up all the fruit and them home with me.

And a couple of weeks ago when I first saw fruits such as persimmons and blood-oranges, I may have stood open-mouthed staring at them. But just for a bit. Because I then saw a stall selling strawberries by the kilo. And all that self-control went out of the window.

I had an idea of making something to store up for the hubby, and jam seemed to be the best option. With winter just setting in, it felt like a nice and fuzzy thing to have a bottle of jam at hand to pair with a warmed slice of bread and a hot cup of tea or coffee. I asked the hubby and he said, “Yeah jam, juice, whatever ”

So with that huge vote of confidence, the jam was made and packaged into jars to (hopefully) last us a month or so. And when the hubby ate a spoon of jam, he looked at me and said, “This was so gooood, I’ll never complain about you buying so much fruit ever again. And just for this life-altering jam, let me get you that MacBook Pro  you wanted”. No, not really, but I live in constant hope, you know 🙂

PS: The hubby and I enjoyed the jam, and making it last one month is proving difficult by the day

Strawberry Jam

(I used Delia Smith’s jam-making tips and loosely followed her recipe here)


1 kg strawberries (avoid any bruised or pulpy berries)
600 gms sugar (this is dependent on your preference,
most recipes call for equal parts fruit and sugar, but I find this makes the jam very sweet)
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon butter
3-4″ cinnamon stick (optionally add star anise if you like spicy jam)


1  Hull the strawberries and make sure you remove all bruised parts of the fruit. Halve the berries and place in a plastic food grade container (make sure the container you use is non-reactive). Mix in the sugar and stir around. Place in fridge overnight, best for 24 hours.

2  After 24 hours, take the fruit and the juices that have formed and place in a large, heavy bottomed vessel. Before cooking, place a saucer in the freezer (this is to test if the jam is set). At medium heat, cook the strawberries for 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick and continue heating.

3  After cooking for around 30 mins, add the lemon juice. Cook for 10 mins more lower the heat and perform the freezer test: Take a spoon of jam and cool it. Take the saucer from the freezer put the spoon on jam on it. allow it to cool for a minute, then push the mixture with your little finger. If a crinkly skin has formed on the jam and it doesn’t run like liquid left, then the preserve is set.

4  Ensure that the jam passes the freezer test, then allow it to settle for 15 minutes, adding a small piece of butter. Remove the cinnamon sticks and transfer the jam to dry, sterilized jars while still warm. Seal the jars and set aside.

The jam is expected to stay for up-to a year if sealed with wax paper and set in a cool place.

How do you like your breakfast pancakes? – II

Taking off from my last post on pancakes (yaaay for pancakes!!), here are some more ideas on playing around with that gorgeous Sunday brunch….

You could make them out of multi-grain flour, topped with sliced figs, and a drizzle of honey !

Or you could make a basic bechamel sauce* (white sauce) and saute chopped mushrooms, carrots and cauliflower in garlic. Top the pancake with the sauteed vegetables, pour over the bechamel sauce and there you go!

Recipe for Bechamel Sauce:
2 teaspoons all-purpose-flour (maida)
1.5 teaspoon butter
1 cup milk
pepper and salt to taste
Assorted herbs to taste

In a pan, heat the butter on a very low flame. As soon as it melts, add flour and saute till flour turns light brown. Now add the milk slowly, stirring while you add. Continue heating till the milk thickens. Add salt, pepper and dried herbs and cook till the sauce is done.

For a basic pancake recipe, click here.

Chole (Chickpeas in spices)

You may not see too much of North Indian food (by which I mean Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Mughal, etc)on this blog, mainly because I am not very familiar with the cooking techniques involved. And a dish such as Punjabi Chole is a very by-the-book dish and doesn’t have much scope for experimentation.

So any purists reading this, please don’t take umbrage at my method of making chole. A traditional pindi chole recipe calls for steeping the chickpeas with tea bags over-night, so that the peas take on a dark hue. But here, I’v skipped this step and stuck to what I am familiar with. The resultant dish is perhaps more tangy than usual, but take my word, it tastes pretty damn fine.

Here it goes, enjoy!

Punjabi Chole:

Kabuli Channas/Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas – 300 gms
Cumin seeds – 8-10
Cloves – 5
Dried red Kashmiri chillies – 5
Cardamon stick – 1/4″
Bay Leaf – 1
Cinnamon Stick – 1″ pc
Ginger and garlic paste (best is freshly crushed) – 1.5 teaspoons
Onions – 1, finely diced
Turmeric powder – 1tsp
Tomato puree – 1.5 cup
Chole Masala – 1 tbsp
Chaat Masala – 1/2 tsp
Amchur/Dry Mango Powder – 1/2 tsp

Boil Chole/Chickpeas along with in a pressure cooker with 3 cups water for around 3 whistles till just cooked.
On medium low heat, heat the pan first dry roast the cumin seeds, cloves, red chillies, bay leaf and cardamon stick for a minute. The grind the roasted spices to a fine powder.

Back to the pan, heat oil, and add ginger-garlic paste to the hot oil. Add diced onions after a minute and fry till onion turns opaque. Add turmeric powder and fry for some time till it becomes light brown. Add the dry roasted spice powder and fry for 2 minutes.

Add tomato puree and cook till the puree thickens. Now add chole masala and amchur powder and cook for 2 minutes. Add the boiled chickpeas and the leftover water used to cook the chickpeas. Add salt to taste. Cook the Chole/Chana with gravy for 8-12 min’s till the gravy thickens.

Garnish with chopped coriander or diced onion.

Note: Chole tastes best when had a day after it is made.

Malabar prawns curry

Prawn curry is my favorite dish.

There – I said it. Growing up in a coastal city, prawns and fish were staples on the dinner table. One of our family weekend activities used to be driving to the docks, around 8-9 am on a Saturday, when the day’s catch would have been hauled in and placed in giant blue buckets. Ahhhhh the joy of choosing from live crabs, giant shrimp, and the freshest fish. Tiger prawns that would pulsate with life, thrashing around on blocks of ice, soon to be the star attraction of our lunch table.

Yes, we are sadistic people like that. But before you judge me, you should take a look at this video of Julia Child’s demonstration of how to kill a live lobster. Please be warned, its definitely not for the squeamish. But I digress.

Back to the topic of prawn curry. The Saturday market in our city has fish counters where I spend at least a good 20 minutes each weekend, picking and choosing. Maybe some day I’ll gather the courage to try cleaning crabs and cooking squid. But for now I’ll play safe and go with what I know.

The following is a very aromatic and spicy prawn curry, made the Kerala way.

Malabar Prawns Curry
Minimally adapted from 50 great curries of India, Camellia Panjabi

1 cup fresh grated coconut
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp
4-5 cloves
1″ cinnamon stick
4 dried red chillies
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 cup sliced onions
1″ ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of – red chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder
2 chopped tomatoes
400 gms de-veined and shelled prawns

Soak grated coconut in warm water and keep aside in a bowl. After half an hour, squeeze out the milk and keep aside. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water for at least half an hour. Then squeeze out the tamarind juice and keep aside.

In a pan, dry roast the dried red chillies, cloves and cinnamon. Grind the roasted spices in a grinder till fine. Keep aside.

In a shallow pan, heat oil ( I used sunflower oil but coconut oil would be best) and add mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add curry leaves and after a few seconds add onions, stirring for 5 minutes.

Add the ground spiced to this and stir for another minutes, till onions turn opaque.

Add the ginger, garlic, green chillies and the masala powders. Stir for 2 minutes, makin sure the masalas don’t stick to the pan.

Add chopped tomatoes, tamarind juice and 1/2 cup water. Turn down the heat and let it simmer. Then add the coconut milk, salt to taste and stir.

Now add prawns and cook over a gentle heat in the open pan for around 5 minutes till prawns are cooked.

Camellia Panjabi suggests the following garnish:Put 2 teaspoons of oil in a ladle and hold over heat. When hot, add chopped shallots, and wait for 60 seconds. Then add 6 curry leaves, and continue heating for 15 seconds. Pour this over the curry and leave for a few minutes.