Bengali Prawn Curry

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This Bengali prawn curry is one that was passed on to me by my mother-in-law and is, without doubt, my favourite of all prawn curries. The sweet undertones from the desiccated coconut and prawns blends superbly with the black mustard seeds and chilli powder, giving it a gently kick. I love to cook it using the king of all prawns, but it tastes equally good if you cook it using the smaller varieties as well. I do prefer to keep the tails mind you, both for appearance and because it holds the prawns together well, so if you can find prawns with shells and tails on I would always opt for those as opposed to buying the ones that have already been shelled and deveined.

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The prawns will be a greyish colour when you buy them. I bought frozen prawns and then let them defrost slowly over night in the fridge before peeling and deveining them in the morning. They remind me of the giant grilled prawns I would eat most evenings when I was staying on the shores of Lake Malawi for my honeymoon, many moons ago.

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Within seconds of being gently cooked the prawns will turn a fabulous pink and begin to curl into themselves. They only need a minute or so cooking on each side to seal them.

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The sealed prawns waiting to go into the curry sauce. The meatiness of them makes them a very satisfying and filling meal.

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Once the prawns have been added to the curry sauce let them simmer gently for a few minutes, making sure you coat the prawns sufficiently in the delicious sauce. Sprinkle ground garam masala over the prawns and give a little stir, before serving with basmati rice.

Bengali Prawn Curry

Serves 3-4

600g prawns, peeled, deveined but tails left on (I used 9 frozen super king prawns)

1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and grated

vegetable oil

2/3 bay leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

25g (or 4/5 tbsp) desiccated coconut

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli powder (less if you prefer it less hot)

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt (you may wish to add one more – taste first)

2tbsp chopped tin tomatoes

200ml boiling water

1 tsp ground garam masala

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a fairly deep frying pan or karahi. On a low heat add the prawns, in stages if your pan is on the small side, so as to seal them. They will curl up slightly and take on a vibrant pinkish hue. After a minute or so turn them over so that both sides are sealed. Then turn them on to their backs so as the top side is also cooked. Remove from the pan and place on a plate to one side, whilst you finish cooking the remaining prawns.

2. Add a little more vegetable oil if it is running dry and keeping the oil at a low heat add the black mustard seeds. They will burst open and sizzle so make sure the oil is not too hot as they will spit! Add the bay leaves and stir with the black mustard seeds.

3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook gently for around 5/6 minutes until they begin to bronze in colour.

4. Add all the spices apart from the garam masala, as well as the salt and sugar.  Stir together and add the tinned chopped tomatoes.

5. Add 200ml of boiling water and add the desiccated coconut. Bring to the boil gently stiring and add the prawns. Gently cover the prawns in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

6. Add the ground garam masala over the prawns, give a quick stir and serve immediately.

Serve with basmati rice.


Bengali Khichuri – perfect for convalescing and detoxing

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If you are feeling a little under the weather, have the winter blues or just fancy some good old Indian comfort food, then read on, this post is especially for YOU>>>>>>>

Khichuri is a traditional Ayurvedic Indian dish, consisting of rice and lentils, that is given to those who are convalescing, detoxing  or fasting, it’s also really popular during puja time. Whilst it can be eaten in its pure form of rice and lentils (no onions or garlic), most khichuri that I have eaten consists of a vegetable or two thrown in as well. It’s the perfect dish to prepare if you need to use up any vegetables before they go off.  The Anglo-Indian dish of ‘kedgeree’ was inspired from khichuri and although it tastes very different the consistency is similar.

My eldest daughter (Big A) has been poorly recently and this is what I prepared for her as it is both nourishing and easy to digest.

There is no set rule on which lentil you need to use or vegetable for that matter. I tend to opt for red split lentils as they are the quickest to cook and need no soaking, although mung beans are also good to use (they do need soaking) as they are known for their ability to remove toxins from the body. My version includes carrot, courgette and and peas. Other vegetables would work equally well so if you have squash, marrow, cauliflower, pumpkin, green beans in the fridge (garden) pop one or two of them in and it will taste divine.

I have not included chilli in this dish as I was feeding it to my daughter, however, if you need a chilli buzz yourself just pop it in (whole or chopped) during  number 2 on the steps below.

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Bengali Khichuri

Serves 2-4

100g red split lentils

100g white rice (if using brown it will take twice as long!)

900ml boiling water

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 large handful of fresh/frozen peas

1/2 courgette, partly peeled and diced

1 tsp of fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp garlic paste

4 green cardamom pods

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp of garam masala powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp ghee/butter/or a splash of oil

fresh coriander to garnish

1. Rinse the rice and red spilt lentils a couple of times in cold water so as to get rid of any impurities and than place in a large saucepan with 900ml of boiling water and the chopped carrots and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile place the ghee/butter/oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion. After 5-7 minutes add the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic and mix into the onions. Following this add the turmeric, garam masala, asafoetida and stir once again. Take a spoonful of the boiled rice and lentils and mix into the saucepan ingredients and then return it back into the main rice and lentil saucepan.

3. Stir all the ingredients together and add the courgettes and peas (or any other greens you need to finish up). Simmer for a further 5-7 minutes and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You may find you need to add a little more water, but just enough to make sure that the rice and lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan. It is not meant to be the same consistency as a soupy dal.

4. Serve into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

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Mung Bean and Cumin Dal and Durga Puja Festivities

This past weekend has been one of celebration as it was Durga Puja. For Bengali Hindus (my husband’s side of the family) Durga Puja is the biggest religious festival in the Hindu calender. In Kolkata, which is the heart of Bengal, I am told it is taken to another level altogether, when families feast, dance and pray to the goddess Durga – the conquerer of good over evil and the mother of the universe, as well as her children: Ganesh, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kartik. Schools close and everyone takes time off work to celebrate.

The statue of goddess Durga on her lion fighting the demon Mahishasura in the Hounslow Pandal

Tooting Goddess Durga 

The making of the statues is a hugely lucrative business in India and at the end of the six day festival the statues are ceremoniously carried to the Ganges and left to drift away and be reabsorbed into the Ganges. The statutes themselves are made of straw and mud from the Ganges and then glazed with paint to give them that glossy shine; the craftsmanship and detail never ceases to impress me.

There are thousands of Durga Puja pandals, which are basically huge structures housing the goddess and her children, erected all over the different Kolkata neighbourhoods. It’s all hugely competitive and each pandal competes for attention in beauty and innovation. I visited two different ones in London – one in Tooting and the other in Hounslow and both were very spectacular in terms of colour and design, the latter I know had been shipped from Kolkata.

Ganesh – one of Durga’s offspring in the Hounslow Pandal

The banging of the drums, the blowing of the conch shell, the incense, the chanting of the prays and hustle and bustle of people coming and going really transports you to India. It’s all rather frenetic and yet very warm and inviting at the same time. In the Hounslow pandal alone thousands of visitors came and went over the course of a few days. Catering for that number must be rather daunting but I was very impressed by the taste and quality of the food and the fact that it was all hot. It was the longest queue for food I have ever witnessed, but it moved quickly and before long we were given a plate of tasty vegetarian food.

Some vegetarian cuisine given to those who attended the Hounslow puja in London

Back at home I have been cooking an endless amount of Indian dishes from: methi and pomegranate pork curry to amma’s chicken curry, red lentil dal with spinach, yellow dal with courgette, Bengali fish curry and mung bean and cumin dal.

It is the mung bean dal recipe that I wanted to share with you all today. Unlike red split lentil and some yellow dal it does require a little more forward planning as it needs to be soaked, ideally overnight.

It’s delicious, nutritious, cheap to make and other than the soaking of the mung beans, is very straightforward. My mother-in-law makes a completely different tasting mung bean dal, which I will post another time, but to get you started try this one and let me know how you get on. It’s perfect for a week night vegetarian supper.

Mung Bean and Cumin Dal

Serves 4

250g mung beans (also referred to as moong bean), soaked overnight

3 tbsp mustard oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

half tsp red chilli powder

half tsp garam masala powder

half tsp cumin powder

1 tsp salt

juice of half a lemon

fresh coriander to serve

1. Place the pre soaked mung beans in a pan and cover with water and gently simmer until softened. This will take around 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the oil in a pan and gently fry the cumin seeds for a minute or so until they begin to bronze. Immediately add the onion and mix together with the cumin seeds.

3. When the onions have softened and become translucent add the cumin powder, red chilli powder, turmeric and garam masala and stir together.

4. Drain the mung beans and then transfer them to the pan with the onions and fold in thoroughly. Add the salt and lemon juice and simmer together for a further 5-10 minutes. You may need to add a little more water at this stage.

Whilst it is delicious to eat on its own or with a chapati it is also great to accompany it with a fish, meat or vegetarian curry (see my recipe library) if you wish to make a more substantial Indian feast.

Mung beans soaked overnight

Step 3 above


Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

After a full on Monday there is nothing more exhausting than having to cook a long and complicated recipe for supper. So I always try to cook something healthy, tasty and speedy in equal measure. I have always loved the taste of chickpeas and find they compliment so many dishes, but for this dish they feature as the main ingredient. There are so many good chickpea curries I was in a quandary on which to show you first, but settled with this one as it can be prepared and cooked within 15 minutes. Seriously it is so fast you’ll impress even yourself. The fresh mint and coriander, whilst not usually paired together, compliment each other well in this dish as the mint gives a sweet undertone that balances really well with the bold coriander and all the other Indian spices.

I cook this curry using canned chickpeas (shock horror), which will save you having to soak them overnight and boil them for an hour or two. Whilst the curry is perfect to eat on it’s own, if you want to make more of a feast you could cook this delicious salmon curry, which also takes no time at all. I will be eating mine with some wholemeal pitta bread, a dollop of natural yoghurt and squeeze of lemon. Simple and yet satisfying, I hope you agree.

Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

Serves 2 (as a main meal or up to 4 if having other dishes)

1 tin of drained chickpeas

2 tbsp ghee (or ground nut/mustard oil)

2 green chillies, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 handful chopped fresh mint

1 handful chopped fresh coriander

2 handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tsp salt

50ml boiled water

1. Heat the ghee/oil and when it is nicely hot add the chopped onion, garlic and chillies. After a few  minutes, when the onions are beginning to brown slightly, add the ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika (I use this hot paprika one I mentioned in this blog post) and garam masala and stir into the onions, garlic and chillies. Leave to simmer gently for another minute.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, mint and coriander and again stir into the other ingredients. The smells coming from your pan will be heavenly!

3. After draining the chickpeas add them to the curry and stir in thoroughly. As the curry will seem a little dry at this stage, add the boiled water and stir into the ingredients. Leave to simmer for a few minutes.

4. Add a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and stir into the curry. Once it is wilted (this will only take a minute) leave the curry to simmer for a couple more minutes. If you think it is still a little dry just add a little more water. Add the salt and stir into the curry before letting it rest for a short while before eating. Equally you can cook it earlier in the day and simply reheat it when you are ready to eat in the evening, although you will have to add a little boiled water when you re-warm it.


Goat Curry….I’m not kidding!

I have had a frozen goat, well part of one, sitting at the bottom of our freezer for quite some time, so I thought it was high time I dug it out. As my mother-in-law was returning from her two month vacation in Kolkata I thought goat curry might be the perfect dish to welcome her back to the UK. I adore goat, but I realise that perhaps it is not as easy to come by as lamb. If you live near a Middle Eastern or Asian butcher you will be able to purchase it without too much trouble. If however this is tricky for you, lamb works equally well for this curry.

As with all the Indian recipes, there is a certain amount of artistic license involved with creating them, so whilst I list a teaspoon of this and a teaspoon of that, if you put a little extra or less it will alter the dynamics slightly but still taste really good;  just remember it is not an exact science as baking is. Scales are not commonly used in Indian kitchens, instead the cook relies more on sight, smell and taste to get the right balance in a dish. After you have cooked the dish a number of times, you too will improvise more with the quantities, but until then it is best to follow my amounts listed below.

Goat Curry

Serves 4-6


1,600 kg goat, diced into mouth sized portions

1 yellow onion, grated

2 inch fresh ginger, grated

1 whole garlic, grated

2 tbsp malt vinegar

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin powder

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tbsp yoghurt

3 tbsp mustard oil

3 bay leaves

4 tbsp tinned tomatoes

2 tsp garam masala

1 tbsp ghee (optional)

1. Dice the goat (or lamb) into bite sized morsels and remove excess fat.

2. Grate the onion, ginger and garlic and add to the meat. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, sugar, salt, yoghurt, malt vinegar, coriander and cumin  powder. Some cooks like to add a little mustard oil at this stage, however, I felt that it was unnecessary.

3. Really mix the ingredients into the goat meat thoroughly and if you have time leave to marinate in the fridge between 4-6 hours.

4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the bay leaves a few seconds before adding the marinated goat meat. Let it simmer gently, stirring from time to time.

5. After about 10 minutes of cooking add the tinned tomatoes and continue to simmer. You will probably need to add a little water, so gradually put in a little at a time so that there is some sauce and is not too dry.

6. The curry should take just under 1 hour to cook. 10 minutes before you turn off the heat add the garam masala and stir in well to the curry.

7. To enhance the flavour further you can also add a little ghee, but this is not essential and if you are watching your waste line then you might want to ignore this ingredient.

Serve with rice, paratha, luchi, roti.

Please note: it is great to cook in advance and then reheat before serving hot. I find curries taste better if they have had time to rest for sometime before eating. If there is leftovers you can keep in the fridge and eat the next day.