It’s a shame that I’m not able to post here regularly. These days I’m all over the place, and invariably end up tight for time. That’s just why I haven’t been able to visit your lovely spaces, to be inspired by what’s cooking in your kitchen. Sorry guys—but I promise to there soon.
I’ve also been hoping, in vain, to work towards at least two posts per week. But even such a modest figure seems quite ambitious now, ah. Frankly, a lot of times, I find it challenging to meet my own expectations of high editorial standards. For instance, with this prawn curry recipe, though I am excited to share the taste with you, I’m disappointed with the photos and styling. I’m like, I don’t think anyone’s ever gonna come back after seeing such pictures. Weird, huh? I know. This's gotta stop. On the contrary, it got to such a point that I had to pressure myself into publishing this recipe as is. Basically, what reflects here is my desire for quality as opposed to quantity. And the funny part is, I'm not even sure if I'm meeting my own expectations, duh! This is exactly why I admire people who post unfailingly 3-4 times a week, that too without compromising on quality. Kudos, guys. You rock!
You must be fed up of my ravings on food photography, eh? For some reason, I can’t stop. Sorry, guys!
I generally tend to shoot with bright white backgrounds, especially over-exposed shots. Because, with white you don’t need to shout for attention, it kinda comes to you. You know what I mean? My greatest motivation for shooting with bright background is Mowie Kay from Mowielicious. His work is a real inspiration and I usually hit his homepage just to enjoy the sheer beauty of his images. I’m sure most food bloggers are familiar with his incredible talent and classy work. Mowie recently launched his first online magazine, an absolute WOW e-book. I for one am totally bowled over by his awesomeness, and aspire to create stunning images just like him. Can’t wait for that day to happen. Sigh.
Okay, coming back to my recipe images, while shooting this time, I really wished I could borrow or hire some dark background props, if not own it. Beautiful surfaces with a country, rustic feel that would bring out the vibrant orange of the curry. I mean, rustic dark surfaces like the ones you see in Dario Milano’s styling and photography blog, Food Pixels. If you, like me, are seriously interested in food photography, and haven’t yet visited Food Pixels, you better hurry and catch up. He shares a lot of wisdom, all illustrated with gorgeous photography that will harness your creativity and empower you to do your best. Well, since we are on the topic of food photography, I’d recommend you check out Learn Food Photography and Food Styling by Neel too. Neel is currently running a 31-day series on tips to improve your food photos, together with daily assignments to help you put these theories into practice. Interested? Then don’t waste time!
Now, let’s talk about the recipe. Shall we? Prawn and drumstick curry.
No, not chicken drumstick… or ice cream drumstick… but veggie drumstick.
This veg is little known to a lot of people though it’s fairly common in India and Pakistan. The highly nutritious plant is usually grown in most backyard gardens back home and I’ve seen it in many Malayali homes in Qatar too. The leaves, fruits, flower, seeds and barks of this plant have great medicinal value. The fruit can be cooked in myriad ways and the leaves are usually prepared with dal for a highly nutritious and delicious taste.
Anyways, this luscious prawn is fairly simple to make, and one of my family’s finger-licking favorite. If you have never tried prawn in creamy coconut milk, cooked with drumsticks and raw mango, you’ll be smitten. The spices balance perfectly to give a hot, but not overpowering flavor. Seasoning with shallots and curry leaves fried in a bit of oil give this dish a compelling, savory fragrance, and irresistible taste.
It’s funny that I, like most Keralites, always call the shrimp, prawn. To me it’s interchangeable and I don’t break my sweat to differentiate the two. So please keep that in mind whenever you eyeball my prawn/shrimp recipes. Well, shrimp is the most popular seafood in the world and as far as I can remember, I have always loved this yummy crustacean. In fact, my whole family adores shrimpy dishes, giving me the perfect excuse to include prawn roast, chemmeen ularthiyathu, chemmeen mulakittathu, unakka chemmeen chammanthi or any other tasty preparation in our meal. In terms of preference, my family enjoys this prawn drumstick curry after the mouthwatering prawn roast.
As with all dishes, ingredients vary little from recipe to recipe, yet altering the proportions create surprising variations in flavor. Raw mango can be easily substituted with kokum for an equally delicious taste. Also, try swapping drumstick for plantain to vary.
Kerala prawn and drumstick curry — Chemmeen Muringakka curry
1 cup prawn/shrimp, shelled, deveined and cleaned (leave some with their tails on, if you like)
12 piece tender drumstick, peeled and cut into finger-size pieces
½ —1 medium mango*, peeled and cut into chunks (depending on sourness)
*as a substitution for mango, use 3 piece kokum soaked in water for 10 minutes
8 fresh curry leaves
1 cup water
generous pinch turmeric
salt, to taste
¼ cup fresh coconut, shredded
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 green chilies, slit
2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
3 small shallots
1 cup water
2 small shallots, finely sliced
few curry leaves
1 tablespoon oil (any oil would do, use coconut to enhance flavor)
In a grinder, blitz the chili, shallots, fennel seeds, coconut and 1 cup water to a smooth, creamy blend. Scrape down the sides and set aside.
In an clay pot, bring prawns, drumstick, curry leaves, mango/konkam and turmeric to boil by adding 1 cup water. Season and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat or until prawn turns opaque. Pour in the ground coconut mixture and bring to a simmer, stirring. Cook for 3 minutes more.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Tip in shallots and stir-fry until light golden and fragrant. Thrown in curry leaves and remove from heat; stir into the curry.
Serve with plain steamed rice to soak up the tasty sauce. Crisp fried pappadam and upperi (dry veggie stir fry) compliments this meal. Alternatively, you could skip the rice and serve it with bread to mop up the flavorful gravy. Scrumptious!
This dish tastes even better when eaten with the fingers of your right hand following the Indian custom. Make sure to form plump balls of rice soaked in gravy and crisp bits of pappadam, rolled into every bite. Simply delicious! Oh, and make sure to lick your fingers in the end.