One of my favourite food moments in India happened in Kerala. After arriving in Cochin, I struck up a conversation with a Scottish gal who was looking for a restaurant recommended by her Indian host family. Naturally, I offered my assistance and invited myself to dinner. I felt it was a fair trade.
Since Kerala is known for its fresh coastal fare, everything we ordered was inspired by the sea. Chatting, eating and even recruiting a solo diner to join us, we spent the entire evening elbow-deep in sumptuous and tropical Indian cuisine. That was the day I discovered Chemmeen Moilee. A moilee is simply a fish or seafood based coconut curry. And we ordered a prawn, or chemmeen, variety. The gentle currents of flavour were filled with soft Indian spice. Hints of turmeric and chilli were relaxed by the sweetness of shellfish and creamy coconut milk.
I didn’t want to interrupt the moment with a photograph, so I scanned the menu for the exact name of the dish. Back in London, I scanned food blogs and cooking sites trying to find the recipe. Thanks to the Indian Food Freak and a few of my own additions, I recreated this magnificent dish.
Want to taste? This recipe will take you and some other lucky person to Kerala in 30 minutes…
1 lbs Prawns, fresh, deveined
1 onion, diced
1 tomato, quartered
1 broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
1 can coconut milk
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp standard cooking oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 piece ginger, julienned
1 tsp crushed ginger
2 hot chilli’s, thinly sliced
2 tsp turmeric
1 bunch of curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp lemon juice 2 tbsp
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
1. Heat cooking oil on Medium-Low until sputtering
2. Add onions, ginger juliennes and chillis, cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent (do not brown)
3. Stir in crushed ginger
4. Add 1 Tbsp water
5. When the water is heated, add half the turmeric and stir up the paste
6. Reduce the heat to the lowest level and slowly stir in the coconut milk
7. Add tomatoes, broccoli, 10 curry leaves and remaining turmeric and simmer for 10 minutes
8. Submerge prawns into the hot liquid and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until pink
9. Turn off heat, slowly squeeze in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper
10. Heat coconut oil in a separate pan
11. Fry mustard seeds and curry leaves for a few minutes, or just as it begins to brown
12. Carefully stir the tadka into the curry and let sit for a few minutes
Serve over rice or any Indian bread.
Now, I can get elbow-deep in food and recreate this meal whenever I reminisce about Kerala or wonder about that girl from Inverness. I also realised that this meal meets all the requirements for an Easter weekend supper.