Goan cooking is a delicate balance of spices that provide complex tastes when combined. Actually Indian cooking – in general, is like this. Until one really understands the nuances in combining spices i.e. the flavor of each spice, you truly cannot cook the food properly. Recipes are just guides, I say this all the time whenever I teach. It’s really technique that’s important. That’s why I often ask anyone willing to teach me something I haven’t done before (or even if I have done it before – there is always a different route one can take to get to a destination right?!), to show me how they make it. Recipes are wonderful but sometimes even following them doesn’t always yield the same results as the Chef intended. It is technique you are paying for when you come to a cooking class.

But enough of that! I think I’ve said many times that my mum was a marvelous cook. She could make anything tasty. She taught me a lot of techniques but in the process of focusing on technique, I lost the guide. I was the worst student she ever taught, you know I like to freeform my recipes. Often saying – “what if we add this” or “let’s put more of that in”. She understood that upsetting the balance of spices, changed the dish. It took me a very long time to learn this. Sadly I don’t have her recipes with me, but I do have her technique – frying onions, mixing spices etc. But Indian food is complex with numerous spices. (I think that’s where my love of cooking Italian and French food came from. Simple tastes with quality ingredients, and of course – great sauces). Anyone who has been to a class of mine knows that I very rarely stick to what the recipe says, even if it is my own recipe. I like to think of it as art, unlike baking, which is most definitely a science.

I’ve tried lots of recipes for Indian food and sometimes they are hits, and sometimes – huge misses. This is one that is most definitely a hit so please give it a try if you like shrimp (Goans say prawn although technically the shrimp family, it is slightly different – I’ve never seen “prawns” on a sign in any of the stores I shop at) curry. As always – enjoy!

250g shrimp, 21-30 count, raw, peeled and de-veined
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp chili powder (cayenne)
3 tbsp of coconut oil (or ghee)
1 medium onion, diced
4 kokum – really important in Goan curries, shop for it at an Indian grocers
200ml coconut milk, unsweetened (this is half a can, you will use the other half below for the masala)
Salt and pepper

2 tsp garlic/ginger paste (or 1” piece of ginger, 6 cloves garlic)
8 dried red chillies, preferably bright red or Kashmiri
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
200ml of coconut milk (from above)
Water, as required

Begin by preparing the spice paste. Grind the ginger, garlic, red chilies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and coconut together in a food processor, adding a little water as necessary until a smooth, thick paste is formed – this should have a reddish color to it, if it doesn’t add 1 tsp of paprika to the paste and mix – I just add 1 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
Rub the shrimp with the turmeric and chili powder
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat add the coconut oil
Add the onion and sauté until caramelized
Add the masala paste to the pan, mix well to combine and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until you start to see the oil break through the surface of the masala
Add the balance of the coconut milk and the kokum and stir (you may need to add a little water)
Reduce the heat to low – a gentle simmer is what you are looking for, cover and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally – if your heat is too high, it will burn at the bottom so please go slow with this part of the process
After 15 minutes, uncover and stir, taste for salt – add salt and pepper to taste – the curry should have thickened if not, simmer uncovered until it does (about 5 minutes or so)
Add the shrimp stir, cover and cook on low for another 5 minutes until the shrimp are pink and have puffed up nicely
Serve with Basmati rice, garnish with fresh cilantro

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