This week the husband and I celebrated our birthdays – mine on July 10th, and his on July 11th. The two birthdays meld into one big birthday, and it’s great fun to share the festivities with my best friend. He was born and raised in Ireland, and each year I go on a mission to round up his favorite treats from across the pond. The list includes HP Brown Sauce, Tayto crisps (aka potato chips), Guinness beer, blood sausage (still haven’t found a source for that one), and Madras curry powder. The husband loves curry, whether the powder is sprinkled over hot chips (potato fries) or stirred into a stew. He had barely opened his Irish gift box before I snatched the tin of Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder from his hands and headed into the kitchen.
Madras is a type of curry powder named for the city in southern India where it’s made. The aroma of this burnt mustard colored powder is so intense, I could smell it before even opening the tin. A balance of pungent, herbal, earthy, and sweet spices, Madras is one of the hotter curries. It’s a combination of coriander seed, turmeric, dried red and green chillies, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, anise, and mustard. Take some time to get to know Madras before you go crazy with it. The spice infuses stews with a slowly building heat that may seem puny at first but will have you sweating by the time your plate is clean.
I decided to make a simple shrimp curry with Madras spiced coconut broth, diced tomatoes, and lime zest served over fluffy jasmine rice. Remember the cucumber-yogurt sauce I mentioned in 10 Ways Tuesday? Popular in Greece (tatziki), Turkey (cazik), and throughout the Middle East, it’s known as raita in India. All of these regions are known for heavily seasoned stews and roast meats that benefit from the balance of cooling yogurt sauce. Raita is made by stirring together Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, toasted cumin, sliced green onions, and cilantro leaves. Make the raita first and leave it to chill in the fridge while you cook this quick shrimp curry. Soft and pillowy Indian naan bread (or try these Sesame Flatbreads) is perfect for cleaning the last of the curry sauce from your bowl at the end.
Now that the party is over, the presents have been opened, and it’s back to our regular routines, the birthday excitement is waning. But when the husband and I came home after our day’s work the house smelled of Madras curry – pungent and sweet – we smiled and reminisced over another wonderful birthday spent together. Here’s to many more curry-scented birthdays!
Shrimp Madras Curry with Raita
Ingredients for Raita
- 1 (7 ounce) container of Greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber
- 2 green onions, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Ingredients for Shrimp Madras Curry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated (peeled) ginger
- 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
- 1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 can (13.5 ounces) of unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 lime
Make the raita by spooning the Greek yogurt into a medium sized bowl, stirring until the texture is smooth. Toast the cumin in a small skillet over low heat just until aromatic, a minute or two. Grind the cumin into a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set the ground cumin aside.
Prepare the cucumber by slicing off the peel (discard it). Cut the cucumber in half horizontally and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds, which should be discarded as well. Grate the cucumber flesh and add it to the bowl of yogurt, along with the sliced green onions and ¼ teaspoon of the cumin powder. Stir the ingredients to combine well, then top with the cilantro. Refrigerate the yogurt sauce until ready to serve.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven) and warm over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until tender and just beginning to brown. Toss in the garlic, ginger, and Madras curry powder and cook for one minute. Add the shrimp, coconut milk, and diced tomatoes, stirring to combine all the ingredients well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through and pink. Taste the curry and season with salt if needed (if the Madras curry powder contains salt, you may not need to add more). Just before serving, grate the zest of 1 lime over the shrimp curry. Serve Shrimp Madras Curry over aromatic jasmine rice accompanied by the Raita and plenty of warm naan bread.