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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Chingri Malakari - Prawns in a Coconut Milk Sauce

After a week (or decade) of salads and proteins I wanted to make something comforting and traditional for our Saturday lunch. I had a bag of king prawns sitting inside the freezer and half a can of coconut milk in the fridge. Now that's rare thing with me. Whenever I suddenly crave for something I usually find that one or the other ingredient is missing from my pantry. I'm not one of those people who buys stuff without planning the menu first. Yes, call me crazy but that's how I am. I have a separate calendar and diary for meal planning. I normally chalk up a weeks menu (Dinner) in advance and make my shopping list accordingly instead of throwing stuff in the shopping trolley and then decide what to do with them. Hence, I hardly end up with two random stuff which are not meant to be there in the first place! So I had prawns, coconut milk and some frozen grated coconut. Well, I didn't let my imaginations run wild and did what any sane Bong would've done with these three main ingredients. I made Chingri Machher Malaikari, one of the ultimate traditional Bong comfort foods, just with a special twist.

Chingri Machher Malakari - Prawns in a Coconut Milk Sauce

Ingredients :

Prawns - 250 gms (I used Atlantic Raw King Prawns)
Onion - 1 medium
Green Chilli - 1
Ginger Paste - 1 tsp
Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Coconut Milk - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp (or more)
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp
Strips of bird's eye chillies for garnish
Oil - 2-3 tbsp, Traditionally this dish is cooked in mustard oil but you can use any other oil

Dry Spices for Tempering :

Cinnamon - 1/2 inch stick
Green Cardamom - 3-4
Cloves - 2-3
Bay leaves - 2

Method :

Put the onion and chilli in a blender and blend into a fine paste. Heat oil in a wok and add all the dry spices listed under Tempering. Sizzle till they start spluttering. Add the onion chilli paste and sugar and fry on high heat till the onion starts to change colour.

Add the ginger garlic pastes and cook on medium heat till the raw smell is gone and oil separates. In the meantime add salt, turmeric and chilli powder to the coconut milk along with the 1/2 cup of water and whisk until you get a smooth cream.

Add the coconut milk mixture to the wok and bring to boil. Add the prawns*(See note) , cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Uncover, add the grated coconut and garam masala and cook on high flame till all the extra water has evaporated.

garnish with chilli strips and serve with hot steamed white rice.

***People who know what a malakari is will know what I meant by ''Twist'' after reading the method. Yes....the grated coconut! We don't normally use grated coconut in this dish. But who says you have to follow rules all the time!!! What's fun about that?***

*Note - Traditionally whole prawns are used for this dish, with heads and tails intact. I used the headless ones as my husband is not very keen on the heads and tails.

Also normally Bengalis fry the prawns before adding them to the gravy. But overcooking the prawns kill their delicate flavour and texture. So I prefer to add them directly to the gravy which leaves them succulent instead of making them rubbery. Another reason why I don't fry them is that way you are making the dish healthier. You can fry them if you want to. In that case fry them before you start cooking onions in the same wok.  *

Serves - 2-3
Preparation Time - 5 minutes(if you are using frozen grated coconut, more if you are doing it at home)
Cooking time - 20 minutes

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Dimer Dalna - An Eastern Indian Spiced Egg Curry

We had a lovely Sunday! Finally a Sunday of no work, home made Bengali food and lots of reading. By Bengali friend I didn't mean complicated stuff like Muri Ghonto or Shukto or Ilish Bhapa. Nope. I made Deemer Dalna and if you are a Bong you'll know that you can never go wrong with this dish. Unless you burn it black of course. I'll pretend that never happened with me! I think this is one of those dishes that I had to learn as soon as I got married as my husband is super crazy about it. He is crazy about anything that has boiled eggs in it! In fact he loves boiled eggs so much that his motocross friends have a fond story about him eating 12-16 boiled eggs after every practice session! Thank God I didn't know him then coz I don't think I'd ever fancy a guy hogging down a bucketful of boiled eggs!!!

Hence my Ma-In-Law taught me this egg curry the very first time I cooked a meal for us two when we moved to Delhi. I must say I've come a long way as the taste of this curry has evolved so much. It is a typical Bengali recipe and it's cooked atleast once a week in every egg loving household! Poor husband doesn't get to eat eggs much these days because of dietary restrictions. But I make it a point to cut down on other egg consumption and let him eat this curry more often. :)

Dimer Dalna - A Spiced Egg Curry

Ingredients :

Free Range Eggs - 4 large
Potato - 1, cubed (Optional)
Onion - 1 large, grated or blended into a smooth paste (this is important as the gravy needs to be of a thick paste like consistency)
Ginger - 1 tbsp (Paste)
Garlic - 1 tbsp (Paste)
Plum Tomato - 1 large, skin off and ground to paste
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Corriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp or more
Salt to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Bay leaves - 2 (available in Asian grocery stores)
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 3 tbsp
Water - 2 cups 
Chillies - 2 to garnish
Corriander Leaves - 2-3 leaves to garnish

Method : 

Hard boil the eggs, take the shells off and make 4 vertical slits on each egg, leaving equal spaces between each slit. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, turmeric powder and chilli powder each to the eggs and toss to coat the eggs with the spices. Add 1/2 tbsp of oil in a non stick wok and fry the eggs. Reserve the eggs in a bowl. Fry the potatoes and reserve.

Heat rest of the oil and add the cumin seeds and bay leaves and let them sizzle and splutter. Add the onion paste once the dry spices start spluttering. Colour the onion and add the ginger and garlic pastes. Cook till the raw smell is gone. Add the tomato paste and cook till oil separates. 

In the meantime make a spice paste by adding all the ingredients from Cumin powder to Sugar in a bowl and blending them together with 2 tbsp of water. Add this spice mix to the cooked onion paste and mix well. Add splashes of hot water if required. 

Cook the onion-spice mix well. Add 2 cups of hot water and the fried potatoes. Cover and cook till the potatoes are tender. Uncover , check seasoning and add the eggs, cooking on high heat. Sprinkle the garam masala, chillies and corriander leaves before turning off the heat.

Serve with hot steamed white rice and lime wedges. 

** An authentic Dalna should be quite runny but with a thick consistency that comes from the onion ginger garlic and tomato paste and the colour comes from the spices. **

Serves - 2
Preparation time - 15 minutes
Cooking time - 30 minutes