Colombo Prawn Curry

30 Apr

This is a lovely curry, a little like a Parsi prawn patia, with a hot, sour, aromatic flavour and a touch of sweetness. I have called it colombo prawn curry because the flavouring comes from a spice mix called colombo. Colombo curry powder is common in France where an Indian curry powder like Madras is more common in England. It gets its name from the former capital of Sri Lanka where this mix originated. The spices were brought from Sri Lanka with plantation workers to the French West Indies, particularly Martinique and Guadeloupe. In the French West Indies this spice mix is used to make a stew or curry of meat. Here I make a much simpler and quicker dish using prawns.

Serves 2-3  Prep 5mins cooking 25mins

  • 2-3 tbsp oil, vegetable or corn
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp colombo spice mix (my blend contains: ground cumin, coriander, caraway, fennel, bay leaves, and turmeric).
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 cup water
  • Fresh red chilli sliced or pickled jalapeno peppers to taste
  • 2 big handfuls cooked frozen prawns
Fry the sliced onions in a heavy pan with the oil and a good pinch of cracked black pepper and salt. Cook the onions slowly until they are very soft and starting to brown, this takes about 15 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato purée cook stirring until the aroma rises from the garlic then stir in the curry powder and fry for a minute. It is important to cook the tomato paste like this in order to bring out its sweetness. Add a cup of water and the chilli, as much or as little as you want for your taste and heat tolerance. I like to use hot pickled jalapeno peppers in this recipe as they add an extra sour note. If not using add a little vinegar or some lemon juice at the end. Cook for around 10 minutes keeping an eye on it to make sure the sauce does not catch or get too dry just add a little more water if it does. Cook until the oil separates from the sauce and rises to the top then add the prawns stir a few times and continue to cook for only a minute or two until the prawns are heated through and ready to serve.
Cooks TIP Do not over cook the prawns they need to be only just cooked. This is a good dish to make ahead of time so its great for a dinner party. You can make the sauce and add the prawns at the last moment just before serving or add the prawns and set aside immediately where they will soak up all the flavours of the sauce then heat the dish when you are ready to serve. You can also use raw prawns and cook them in the sauce before serving.
Note Colombo spice blends can vary but tend to contain at least 5 of the following: cumin, coriander, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, brown mustard, turmeric, bay leaves and cloves. Some recipes also call for ground rice in the mix but that really is just adding bulk and I don’t use it. It does not normally contain chilli powders and is a fairly mild but aromatic curry powder which makes it very versatile in the kitchen. You can buy  Epices Colombo also known as Caribbean Curry Powder or Colombo spice mix easily in France or you can find an online spice retailer such as Seasoned Pioneers  or The Best Possible Taste which deliver worldwide or better still make you own.
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