Prawn Balti – what a fantastic curry!

24 Apr

There are times when only a curry will do and last night was one of them.  I’m not a lover of fish curries but absolutely love prawn curries.  This is the first time I have tried to make this recipe and the taste was unbelievable, spicy and fairly hot but also somehow fresh tasting.  Delicious!  I served it with plain boiled rice and threw on a vegetable samosa (don’t ask me why, I just fancied one).

There is a bit of controversy as to why these currys are called Balti.  Some say it is because they originated in Pakistan in the Baltistan region of Kashmir.  Others say they are named after the pan in which the curry is cooked and that they originated in Birmingham.  One thing for sure, Birmingham certainly made Balti dishes popular.  I remember being taken to Sparkhill in the 1980’s to have my very first Balti.  Originally this is where you would find Balti Houses, on and behind the main road between Sparkhill and Moseley.  It was a real experience for me.  The restaurant was more like a cafe, hard chairs and a glass-topped table under which you could read the menu.  It was brightly lit, no romantic lighting here!  If you wanted to drink alcohol you had to take your own and the owners would willingly open it for you and the Naan bread was the size of the table leaving hardly any room for the actual Balti pans.  I loved it! The people were really friendly and the food was fantastic.  Obviously, today you can choose a Balti curry from the menu of most Indian restaurants but they will never compare to my first experience of eating one.

Anyway, here is the recipe.  It is definitely one worth trying if you like curries.

Prawn Balti                           Serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 3 tbsp/45 ml sunflower oil
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp/ 10 ml garlic paste
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 7 oz/200g tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml tomato puree
  • 1 lb/500g raw peeled prawns
  • 1 tsp/5 ml salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 6 fl oz/175 ml warm water
  • 1/2 oz chopped fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley
  1. Preheat a Balti pan (if you have one) or a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the ginger for 30 seconds.  Add the onion and stir-fry for about 7 minutes or until the onion is soft and just starting to turn brown.
  2. Add the garlic, cardamom, cumin, fennel, chilli and turmeric.  Reduce the heat slightly and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until cooked down slightly.  Add 50 ml/ 2 fl oz of water and continue cooking until the water is absorbed and the il floats on the surface.
  3. Add the tomato puree, prawns, salt, fenugreek and garam masala. Stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add the water, increase the heat slightly and stir fry for about 4 minutes more or until the prawns are pink and cooked through.  Stir in the coriander or parsley and serve immediately.

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