South India via south London


Malabar Prawn Curry

South Indian food is a bit of a theme in our house, not merely because we love food from India, but also because South India has an abundance of seafood dishes to offer, making it very attractive to us.

We love these Keralan flavours, from the traditional Malabar cuisine. Spicy and rich, yet tamarind sour with an undertone of coconut. I always struggle to choose my ‘death cell’ flavours but these must feature, therefore I must cook with them…


I’m uncertain where my love of spice comes from and why it’s so deep seated – I’m laughing at myself because this is one of the ways in which I feel I identify as being British. It’s a British trait to love Indian food, definitely a London trait and most definitely a south London trait. My European identity defines me too as I have been a European for, well, as long as I have had conscious thought. Although my official identity may change politically, I shall remain a European soul…I’m still angry, you may discern. Back to the tale.img_8497

On further thought, it’s likely my spicy tongue has been derived via a mayhem of random and not so random events, none of which include the slightly khaki, sultana ridden curries of my childhood. The more defining elements are as follows:

  1. My brother Karl-Heinz and surrogate brothers Awkward, Baguette and Canary for taking me along for the ride to thimg_8533e ‘Taj Mahal’ restaurant in Streatham after their Friday nights out, back in the day. (Encouraging me to try more than just the Samosa, which was my first foray).
  2. An early boyfriend, half Pakistani and his father too for introducing me to the Lahore kebab house in Commercial Road, East London. The delight of that Karahi Gosht, at the time still ordered by the pound, remains one of the best foods to ever pass my lips.
  3. London, for obvious reasons.
  4. A constant and dreamy desire to carry myself off on addscf0249ventures to far flung, steamily exotic climbs (or anywhere really, to be fair) aided and abetted by friends with an insatiable appetite for a holiday…mini break….trip or sometimes just lunch, particularly The Marmoset. I’m not certain where this yearning came from but people say I’m a dreamer….but I’m not the only one… to quote my guru. Back to the list…
  5. Being fortunate enough to have been to India and Sri Lanka, after which life is never quite the same.
  6. Rocket, my partner in life and greatest influence in every way but particularly in food, he is a willing accomplice in my quests for ‘interesting stuff’. Back to the tale…img_8559

South London ensures we can have a well stocked Asian larder, the many ‘cash and carry’ minimarkets piled high with sacks of chapatti flour, the air thick with exotic spices stacked beside ‘all manner of what have you’. We picked up the little copper dish in this photo when on way to my mother in law in east London in a similar type of spice palace. So for the dish…

Some frozen tiger prawns and an idea of the type of sauce I wanted to achieve, gave me the start for this dish, I opted to make a paste, not necessarily the traditional method but a way with which I am reasonably confident.

We opted for the quick and traditional prawn marinade of a bit of turmeric and some sea salt.  Next steps would be timg_8499o make a curry paste encompassing the key ingredients and some onions that had been cooked well down until thickly sticky and caramel in colour, finally a little tempering of spices and pan work. It was quick to prepare, takes very little time in the cooking and various stages can be prepped ahead, so pretty user friendly. In fact, it probably took Rocket longer to clean and butterfly the prawns than to make the sauce!

So there you have it, not difficult, can easily be vegetarian – I would propose the inclusion of some roasted sweet potato and a handful of spinach in place of the prawns – we served it with a few whole wheat puri – recipe for the puri breads is in a previous post here: and some plain basmati rice… give it a go?

Here is how: Serves 2


For the Prawns / Marinade

¼ tsp salt

img_8532¼ tsp turmeric

275 g Peeled tiger prawns

For the Paste

2 pink indian onions or 5 banana shallots, peeled chopped and sweated down on low heat with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 tbspn veg oil until thick and deeply brown.

2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped.

2 garlic cloves, grated.

¼ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp chilli powderimg_8548

2 tsps coriander seeds, toasted in a dry pan.

1 long Kashmiri dried chilli, roasted with the coriander seeds.

2 tablespoons of fresh grated coconut (frozen is ok, dried is not – I used one of those little lunch packs of pre-cut pieces rather than grapple).

2 tbsp from a 400g can of coconut milk

2 tsps tamarind pulp (from a block or pre-done form a jar)

½ tsp salt

In the pan:

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

½ tsp mustard seedsimg_8230

6 curry leaves

2 table spoons sunflower oil

2 cm ginger cut into matchsticks

½ onion – thinly sliced

The remainder of the coconut milk from the can.

½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt or to taste

To Garnish:

A few coriander leaves and a pinch of fresh grated coconut, toasted in a dry pan.


  1. Get the onions on for the paste as shown in the ingredients list.
  2. Marinade the prawns, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare the other paste items while the onions are cooking down ( they will take about 15 minutes.)img_8549
  4. Place all the paste ingredients into a blender or using a stick blender, whiz until you have a fine paste.
  5. Now take a heavy based pan and add the vegetable oil, heating over a medium flame.
  6. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and once they begin to pop add the curry leaves letting them sizzle for a minute before adding the onion and ginger.
  7. Cook out the pan ingredients for a couple of minutes then add the paste, and cook it out for 2/3 minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn’t stick.img_8534
  8. Next add the coconut water and remaining coconut milk from the can, along with another ½ can of tap water and the sugar.
  9. The mixture will now look a little watery, allow it to bubble and reduce for 7/8 minutes until it has reduced nicely to a thick’ish sauce and add extra salt to taste and the prawns.
  10. Stir the prawns through and cook for a couple of minutes until they are just opaque but no more, check and adjust the seasoning, garnish and serve.


3 thoughts on “South India via south London”

  1. I’ll have to try this, my boyfriend loves South Indian food!

    If you’re interested in Charity shopping in South London, I’ve just written a review on Octavia Foundation, Tooting. Have a read and spread the word on the good work that they do:

    Happy blogging x

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