After what seemed an extraordinarily lengthy two years, I flew from Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi, trying to swallow tears as the plane hit the hot tarmac. I managed to meet my grinning mother and wide-eyed sister with composure and we were all talking over-excitedly, on top of each other, consumed with the simple yet complete happiness, of a family being together again. My accent changed, much to The Scotsman’s amusement, back to the super fast, flatter, heavy syllable sound of Indians speaking English. All was noise, confusion, half-finished sentences and laughter.
Piling into the rented apartment, I noticed my mother carrying a particularly large and heavy looking carrier bag, from where the scent of garlic and spices escaped from supposedly, tight lidded containers. I couldn’t plague her with questions or stick my face into the bag to demystify its contents yet, as I had a wee baby to sort out first. And that took a while. She was bathed, fed and settled, while time marched on and we suddenly realised we were starving. Out came plastic containers of all sorts of shapes and sizes from that Mary Poppins like bag and the contents were gently reheated and served. And this Garlic Prawn curry was one of them.
Now, I did not put in any foodie requests for my arrival. Yet Mama knew that this is what she had to make and that a cabbage and carrot thoran would be the perfect side dish for me. I looked at all the various dishes and asked her how on earth she knew exactly which ones to make. She just smiled, in a self-conscious and yet, knowing manner and simply replied, ” I just did. I knew.”
This is simplicity itself. Other than turmeric, there is no other spice. The taste is reliant solely on the garlic, the ‘body’ of the ‘curry’ comes from tomatoes and the curry leaves add that finishing touch. Cooking this in coconut oil, really makes it special and lends an authenticity to it.
There is only one point, on which I have to bully you into compliance and that is; keeping the flame at medium the whole way through, cook the ‘masala’ until it is complete mush, has darkened, gets shiny and the oils are released. Then and only then, will the true flavour of this recipe come into its own. It’s a small point that makes a big difference. I have previously, due to lack of patience, proceeded without cooking the masala that far, and then wail that it didn’t taste the same. Learn from my mistakes. I finally have!
And that’s it! If you want more liquid, up the tomatoes to one more and you can always add a bit of water to get the consistency that pleases you. I wanted this a little drier and less liquid. It’s wonderful with just about anything, rice, chapatis, parathas, or just a spoon.
I don’t quite remember any of the conversations we had while eating but I can still recall the feeling of being at the brink of bursting! I left my child to the care of her newly introduced relatives and proceeded to sprawl, comatose, on the sofa.
I tell you, it doesn’t get much better than this.