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Dan Toombs is a businessman based in North Yorkshire. This year he’s eating Indian cuisine every day and documenting it on his curry website. www.greatcurryrecipes.net

There’s something about the sweet taste of fresh prawns coated with a light, savoury spice-dusted sauce. I’ve been making this recipe for years and will never grow tired of it. I chose it specially for Chaat! readers because it’s fun to serve and the ingredients are easy to find. Opposites definitely attract when cooking good Indian food. I’ve used cooling yoghurt blended with hot spices like black pepper, cumin, red chilli powder and garam masala that work so well together. These exciting flavours, blended with the satisfying bite of green chilli, ginger and garlic, and then topped with one last squeeze of lemon juice results in an absolutely delicious curry. Pan fried jumbo prawns can be served dry as a starter or covered in the peppery marinade and served with rice as a main course. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • Marinade Ingredients
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) plain yoghurt
  • 1 heaped tbsp white cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic – smashed
  • 1 inch piece of ginger – grated
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Main ingredients
  • 2 tbsp butter or ghee
  • ½ onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped coriander
  • Lemon or lime wedges to serve
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus marinating time
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2, as a starter
(See below for main course suggestion)

METHOD
I like to serve prawns in the shell. The shells add a lot of flavour to the sauce, but you can peel the prawns if you prefer. Whatever you choose to do, take a sharp knife and make a shallow incision down the back of each prawn and remove the black intestine. In a large dry frying pan, dry fry the cumin seeds over medium heat. Move the pan around as you cook so that the seeds roast evenly. When the cumin begins to smoke, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the seeds to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Grind the cumin into a fine powder. Place the cumin powder and the rest of the marinade ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Cover the  prawns with the marinade and allow to sit for about an hour. Melt the butter in the frying pan over medium heat and add the chopped onions. Fry until the onions turn translucent and lightly browned. Add the chopped green chillies and fry for a further minute. Scrape most of the marinade off the prawns and add them to the onions. Cook until the prawns turn pink and are just cooked through. At this point you could add about a tablespoon or two if the remaining marinade to the prawns to coat them if you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped coriander, a squeeze of lemon juice and the garam masala.

To serve as a main course
Double the ingredients and cook exactly as above but instead of adding just a little yogurt marinade, add it all and serve over rice.

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So then, curries. Do they play a significant role in your life?

 “Of course! My dad used to be at sea and a lot of the crew were Bangladeshi. He’d come home with big bags of spices which he’d keep under the stairs. He’d grind them all up when he was making a curry for friends. I really wanted to stay up but my parents said I couldn’t stay up until I could eat curry. I forced myself to eat it even though they were far too hot! Now I absolutely love them.”

So your dad got taught by the masters!

“Very much so! He’s had a lot of work done on the house now but up until recently you’d still get that waft of curry whenever you opened the cupboard under the stairs!”

What’s your favourite then?

“I do love a spicy one, but there’s this one dish our local restaurant does where the lamb is marinated for 24 hours and it’s gorgeous! Curry is such a huge area; I love green Thai curries, I love dansaks, I enjoy the occasional korma and I love all my side dishes. That’s what dad taught me from a very early age. We’d have chick peas with spinach and Bombay potatoes and of course yoghurt, which is essential with any curry!”

Let’s talk gardening now. Got any advice for green fingered debutants?

“What tends to happen this time of year is people go crazy, buy all different type of seeds and it all starts growing at once. Think about what you want to grow. If you’re going for herbs then some spring onions, maybe some basil and coriander. Mint does really well, too. Keep re-sowing things; don’t sow the whole packet, keep planting another line every three weeks or so. You’ll have young fresh produce coming up regularly then.”

I have a problem with slugs. Especially with my coriander…

“They are a pain! If the soil hasn’t been touched for a long time then you’ll have more problems with them. People say gravel works but it really doesn’t. You can try putting your coriander in a container or pot and put a ring of this copper tape you can get. It actually looks quite pretty and it gives the slugs a shock.”

A high security coriander island!

“Yes! It really works too.”

Brilliant. Now then, we read somewhere you were going to be called Daffodil. Is this true?

“It was one of the names, yes! It was either going to Daffodil or Dandelion. I can assure you I wouldn’t have been a gardener if I did get one of those names. Daffodil Dimmock? I don’t think so!”

An actress, maybe? Did you enjoy doing Calendar Girls last year?

“I did! I was terrified. Not the stripping off part, but it was the first stage stuff I’d ever done and I was way out of my comfort zone. I turned up to rehearsals and I was the only non actor. Only proper actors do theatre so I did feel out of my depth but they were all so lovely! I made some great friends during that. Then later in the year I did my first pantomime which was a total ball.”

Do you prefer the stage to the camera?

“There’s an immediate reaction when it’s on stage. I can see why people get hooked on that type of acting but I found the lifestyle was a bit at odds with what I usually do. With gardening you get up nice and early and by the  evening it’s all over. With theatre you don’t finish until a lot later and you get up later in the day. I couldn’t switch my body clock, once a gardener…”

Always a gardener. Home growing has become really popular recently. Do lifelong gardeners get cynical about people taking it up as a fad and leaving their gardens to rot after a year or two?

“I only worry that people go in like a bull in a china shop and don’t pace themselves. A lot of people are off work after every spring and Easter bank holiday due to putting their backs out and what have you. You’re best to  remember that it’s not really about saving money when you’re gardening; unless you have a lot of time to invest then you won’t be self sufficient. What you can do is grow varieties that you don’t often see the supermarket. And of course, tomatoes picked fresh from the garden are so much tastier!”

Charlie is now the face of Gardening Direct.
Visit www.gardeningdirect.co.uk for more of her advice and tutorials.

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Getting to know your local spice house a little too well? A curry inspired city break could just be the ticket. This month we savour the flavour of Cardiff.

Cardiff: home of the British Curry Club. The youngest capital in the UK, Cardiff was one of the very first British cities to have a recognised multicultural community. Naturally, a rich catalogue of spice houses is on offer with every neighbourhood in the city starring a must-visit eatery. But where to start? We know what it’s like when you first land in a strange city; too many choices and that belly-rumbling paranoia of making the wrong decision. You’ve only got a few nights here and you’ll be darned if you blow any opportunity to indulge in your favourite dish. Come to Cardiff and let Chaat! take you on a guided tour of the best spice houses in the city.

Get on the sport! Burn of the curry calories:

Cardiff lives and breathes sport. It’s got its very own sports village; that’s how much the city loves the stuff. Wet and wild adventures abound at the Olympic pool, the International White Water course and Cardiff Bay Water  centre where you can find a wide range of splashful antics such as white water rapids, windsurfing, water skiing, speed boats and kayaks. Looking to keep your curry powder dry? Head north for the mountains or south west along the coastline; both missions will reward with their instant cobweb blowing abilities. And those who would rather sit back and spectate can find just as much entertainment thanks to one of the city’s most impressive young structures… The iconic Millennium Stadium is one of the UK’s only stadia that’s located in the city centre, and any match day atmosphere is an exhilarating experience as a result. Not least in the spice houses post-game! It’s not just rugby and football fans that are catered for: The Swalec national cricket stadium is home to an impressive amount of international fixtures. Remember: whether your team wins or loses, curry is the ultimate post-game event. See over for Cardiff’s finest British Curry Club Restaurants.

Image courtesy of Cardiff & Co

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Okay, so this has been on the shelves since last year. But Chaat! hasn’t, and it’s such a great resource for all things curry, we just had to highlight it. So, if you’ve yet to sample Anjum’s simple-but-oh-so-sweet apple, orange and mint raita, or you’re a stranger to her wholesome herby chicken curry, now’s the time to tuck in. Authenticity is the name of game; many of Anjum’s recipes come with a brief history, context, region and explanation of why she chose a particular recipe over the hundreds of other variations. It’s also an interesting insight into her upbringing; the mussel with saffron recipe tells of French childhood holidays while the lamb and spinach formula shares a story of her trying to capture one of her earliest culinary memories. Don’t just stop at the main meal suggestions, though. The accompaniment section is a bounty of ideas to make your dish into a true thali of treats. The zingy carrot salad, crunchy spiced lotus root and beautifully textured stir-fry cabbage, Bengal gram and coconut recipes are well instructed, easy to conjure up and, above all, incredibly satisfying off the fork. Anjum loves curry, and so do we… This book is another fine addition to all spice lovers’ collections. STAAR RECIPE: Anjum’s hearty meatball and pea curry

http://www.anjumanand.co.uk/tag/i-love-curry/

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Tikka, tikka, tikka… Boom! On March 24, just as this issue was beginning to develop, our news desk sprang to life as researchers in the US announced that turmeric could detect explosives. We’ve always known spices had a lot to give, but this takes our cherished ingredient to a whole new level. We called up Chaat’s science expert Mark Frary to find out just how this works… Turmeric has long been revered for its health benefits, yet new research shows that it may have uses beyond both the kitchen and the hospital; scientists at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell have shown how the active ingredient in turmeric can be used to detect explosives such as TNT! Professor Jayant Kumar, Dr Mukesh Pandey and Abhishek Kumar revealed in a presentation to the prestigious American Physical Society how the optical properties of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, could be used to detect  inute traces of explosives in the air. The technique relies on something called fluorescence spectroscopy which is closely linked to why objects look the colour they do.

Colour Me Baad
Imagine a red balloon. White light, which is made up of a mixture of different colours of light, from a light bulb or the sun lands on the balloon. The reason we see the balloon as red is that the colours other than red are absorbed by the balloon and then re-emitted in every different direction, reducing the intensity of those colours in the direction of viewing. The red light is not absorbed and is simply reflected into our eye. Brightly coloured turmeric,  meanwhile, absorbs blue light and reflects the remaining red and green components, which combined to form the yellow we recognise and love. Every different substance or object absorbs a different cocktail of light. The researchers use this, and the fact that curcumin binds together easily with molecules of TNT, to detect those minute traces. Here’s how… Say you were passing through an airport carrying a bag that previously contained a bomb. The security officer could take a sample of the air in the bag and introduce it into a detector containing a thin piece of film coated in curcumin. The film is coated with a sea of nanofibres, giving it a high surface area – important when you are trying to detect the small concentrations of substance involved. When the air passes through this ‘hairy’ film, some of the curcumin embedded in it grabs hold of an explosive particle. Now, when a  trong light is shone on the film something strange happens. If there is nothing in the air, then the curcumin-coated film glows brightly. However, curcumin that has reacted with TNT absorbs much more of the light falling on it and the film turns black. You are promptly arrested. “Explosives like TNT and PETN are very hard to detect because [there are] typically only a few molecules per billion air molecules at room temperature,” explains Kumar. The minute traces of material involved mean that an airport security official or the kitchen table amateur scientists couldn’t achieve the same effect with a tub of curry powder. Yet it is amazing to think that the bright colour that we curse when we get it on our pristine white clothes and tablecloths is actually a boon in the war on terrorism. The team’s sensor is so sensitive it can detect less than a trillionth of a gramme of explosive. By tweaking  that is used on the special film, the detector can be used to seek traces of toxic gases in mines, at factories and accident sites. So here’s to turmeric; the spice that keeps on giving.

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Two days, 35 food journalists from across the world, 15 top international chefs and some of India’s most high pro le government o cials… The rice industry has never seen such a high pro leevent as the inaugural Basmati for the World conference. Naturally Chaat was there to sample every morsel of it. From extensive discussions on just how much Basmati rice is exported from India each year ($2.5billion last year alone!), to live demonstrations by incredibly talented chefs, and a lavish Bollywood party; the conference was a series of vibrant events, each one boasting the rice’s versatility. Well, all of them except the big party… That was just a classic case of fantastic Indian hospitality.

SUGAR, SPICE, ALL THINGS RICE…
The event came complete with a book launch. Basmati: Fragrance, Flavour & Finery. A tome with a twist, many of the recipes were European and American interpretations of the ingredients, allowing the usually typecast grain of rice to add its nutty, aromatic strengths to a wide range of dishes such as monk sh sushi, beetroot and pumpkin risotto and rice pudding with apple and caramel. “During the unique two day initiative celebrity culinary masters will re-invent their own local dishes with Indian basmati rice,” boasted Mr Asit Tripathy, Chairman of India main food export body APEDA. He was backed up with a more bona  de reason for the timing of the event as India’s  commerce Secretary Shri Rahul Khullar explained…

“Indian Basmati has gained greater recognition for its quality in the world market and country has recently been successful in expanding export of this unique aromatic rice to new markets including Africa, Europe Latin America, Oceania and Central Asian regions. As part of Government’s newer strategy to double over all exports by year 2014 a special focus has been given on employment intensive sector agri-exports for which the export target has been set at $22 billion. The Ministry of Commerce has prepared a strategy paper envisaging doubling of exports to $500 billion by 2014.” Mindboggling  gures, an encouraging sign of India’s economic growth, a chance to witness some of the most exciting chefs in the world and of course, sample some ridiculously exquisite basmati-based recipes. The UK is already one of basmati’s largest importers, but recipes like these unique ideas overleaf could easily see our import  gures rise just that little bit further…

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