From the kitchen of Ms Vasunthara, 36, adapted from her grandmother Kamalachi’s recipe.
This recipe serves 2-3 people.
2-3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil / vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 medium red onions, sliced
2 green chillies, slit lengthways
3-4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Thinned out coconut milk (½ cup thick coconut milk mixed with 1 cup water)
200g prawns, peeled and marinated with a pinch of salt and turmeric
250g ridge gourd, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4-1/2 cup thick coconut milk
Salt, to taste
MAKE THE MASALA
1. In a wide, thick-bottomed pan, heat coconut oil over medium-high flame.
2. Once oil is hot, add mustard seeds to hot oil and wait for seeds to pop.
“When it starts popping, your oil is hot enough. Whole spices, when they pop, they release a perfume into the oil.”
3. Add fenugreek seeds and with spatula, pan fry for 10 seconds.
4. Add red onions and green chillies. Sprinkle a little salt and pan fry till onions are softened.
“Salting helps to soften the onions faster, because it draws out the moisture. Salt a little bit at every stage… You’re flavouring each individual layer. When you taste it, the salt is in the background, and not an overpowering, salty taste.”
5. Add ginger-garlic paste. Keep tossing and pan fry for 20 seconds.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add roughly chopped tomatoes and turmeric, coriander and cumin powders.
“With home cooking for most Indian foods, there’s no finely chopped.”
7. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Keep tossing mixture and cook until tomatoes and spice powders become a paste (masala), and the oil changes colour and separates from the masala. If the masala paste starts to dry out and begins to burn, sprinkle a little water to loosen the mixture and continue cooking.
“This is the part that is tedious in most masalas. It’s very hands on, you cannot walk away - you need to watch that it doesn’t burn.
“The flavor profile (should) sort of melt together; you can’t distinctly pick out individual spices when it’s cooked out.”
MAKE THE REST OF THE CURRY
8. Add ridge gourd pieces, prawns and thinned-out coconut milk.
9. Cover and cook until prawns and ridge gourd pieces are cooked. Remove prawns and set aside if they cook before the ridge gourd.
“The ridge gourd takes slightly longer to cook than the prawns, so it’s all about timing.”
10. Switch off the flame. Add thick coconut milk and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.
11. Simmer curry for 1 minute over low flame. Do not let it boil as the coconut milk will split.
12. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with plain rice.