Succulent prawns and a gleaming coconut cream sauce, warmed through with garam masala, chilli and ginger. You simply can’t beat a good curry for instant winter warmth and comfort, especially when it includes this flavour-packed, made from scratch curry paste.
Now before you baulk at the idea of making your own curry paste, rest assured, it’s far from complicated and so much better than any store-bought version. Midweek suppers are usually quick and to the point, making use of any and every available short-cut, but tonight’s dinner is an exception to the rule as the paste is quite simply, exceptional. Doubling up on the recipe will save you time for when next a curry craving hits. I adapt this versatile paste to use in vegetarian, meat and chicken curries. A little effort here will be worthwhile and is sure to do away with any dreary weeknight supper.
I think heat is like a shoe. Everyone has their own comfortable fit, which is precisely what makes curry so versatile. Goldilocks understood this principle – too hard, too soft, ahhhh…. just right! This prawn curry has a mellow kick of heat that can have the volume turned up to whichever point you prefer. I’ve used three different types of chilli in the paste, each of which contributes a particular type of heat. Made with red chillies, dried chilli flakes, chilli powder and just enough ginger to add a mild, sweet zing. It sounds quite heavy on the heat, but a careful balance of each prevents it from being overwhelmingly hot.
Great curries are all about building up flavour profiles. Dry toasting the whole spices will release their natural oils and provide the most intensely aromatic flavour. Your kitchen will lure the hungry in and you might even imagine you’re in a Mumbai curry den, smouldering out the best spice potions! Caramelising the onions slowly over a gentle heat will provide subtle sweetness to the paste.
Once the paste is done, you’re on the home stretch to the quickest curry ever! Prawns require minimal cooking time, so make sure you’ve got bowls at the ready. Serve with steamed basmati rice, naan breads and sambals, or if you’re going carb-free, coconut milk cauliflower rice would be perfect. Finish with extra chilli, coriander and lime wedges.
Prawn and coconut cream curry
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 x quantity curry paste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup (125ml) tomato passata or tinned, chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
400g tinned coconut milk
500 – 600g deveined prawns, tails on
juice of half a lime
salt, to taste
For the paste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cm ginger, grated
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
Start with the paste. In a dry frying pan (no oil added), toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over a medium heat until fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop. Transfer to a grinder or place in a mortar and pestle and crush until fine and powdery. In the same pan, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onion until soft and caramelised. This should take about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for 2 minutes. Now add in the masala, turmeric, chilli powder, chilli flakes, salt and sugar. Stir through for several minutes. Lastly add the finely ground spices, water and lime juice. Mix to combine.
Transfer the paste to a processor and blitz until smooth. If you’ve made double, store half in a sterilised jar and cover the top of the paste with a tablespoon of vegetable oil to retain it’s flavour and freshness. Store in the refrigerator.
To make the prawn curry, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan. Add 1 x quantity curry paste, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and sugar. Bring up to a gentle boil and then add the coconut milk. Simmer uncovered on a medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Add the prawns to the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes, until cooked through. Add the juice of half a lime and check the seasoning. Serve immediately with your choice of sides.