I never realised how great my cooking was till I actually tried cooking food beyond the ‘Maggi in a Mug’ & burnt attempts at a ham and cheese omelette that looked more like french toast & tasted not much better! For the uninitiated, Maggi in a Mug is a boarding school tradition. Hot water from the bathing geysers in a bathing mug in which you dump the Maggi and then wait for it to slowly dissolve…the resultant mess is the obvious namesake. However, moving to Bangalore and living alone allowed me to start experimenting in the kitchen, especially when my maid’s cooking was restricted to combinations of chilli, chicken, gravy, oil & tomatoes – 20 different types. To cut a long story short I had some friends over from out-of-town so here’s the first recipe, a Goan Crab Xec Xec Curry. Warning: This recipe is a spicy one, so be prepared!
Preparation/Cooking Time: 45 mins – 1 hour. Can I Make It Level: Yes. Medium Difficulty.
The critical thing to note before embarking on any type of half decent culinary adventure is to make sure you have the right tools. Don’t skimp here, because size and quality does matter! While you’re not going for the Masterchef Kitchen look I would recommend the following.
- Two good-sized non-stick branded saucepans. I prefer the Cocoon range of cookware, they’re TEFLON coated, sturdy and wear age well.
- A set of sharp cutting knives, some good brands put there include Lazer. I prefer a couple of the German brands, you tend not to go wrong with the European stuff.
- Chopping boards – 1 large and 1 Small. Both wooden or toughened plastic? will do.
- Wooden spoons for stirring, no particular brand but make sure they are sturdy and sit comfortably in your hands.
- Assorted pans for boiling rice, cleaning meats and generally useful.
- A bunch of small steel bowls to keep your spices etc.
- Couple of medium to large steel strainers – they are especially useful for cleaning rice and sea-food.
- A really sturdy wet/dry grinder for spices etc. Lot of good brands out there, I prefer the Kenstar, possibly because it came free from my mother! Two things to look out for, the simpler the better and should have a powerful motor with multiple speed settings.
Since I live alone in Bangalore I am comfortable picking up my sea-food from either the Metro Cash & Carry goo.gl/maps/Jy3br near my office or the more expensive but better serviced Food Hall at the new 1MG Mall goo.gl/maps/DSosa. Alternatively, you can try Russell Market goo.gl/maps/mnMUP where most of the locals shop.
- 2 kgs crabs
- 1 Coconut
- 1 Packet Kashmiri Chilli’s (Almost impossible to find in Bangalore so you can substitute that with local dried red chillies)
- 1 Packet Coriander Seeds neé dhaniya
- 1 bottle of Malabar Peppercorns
- 25 gms Cloves neé laung
- Regular Cooking Oil
- Store-bought Ginger-Garlic Paste (If you wish to make it at home find the recipe at goo.gl/JWEHF)
- 1 packet of Tumeric neé haldi powder
- 1 packet of Kashmiri Chilli powder (Only required if you don’t have Kashmiri Chillies)
- A bunch of green chillies
- Raw Tamarind neé imli
Crabs: You need to clean the crabs. Normally quite a yucky process, would suggest you use polythene gloves to handle the crabs. Unlike prawns, crabs are easy to clean. Rinse them under the kitchen tap and remove any grimy parts or debris. You might find yellow tinged meat in the underbelly. This is safe to eat and is considered a delicacy in some parts of the civilised world…I personally think its gross and scoop it out. Once you clean the crab, break it into four to six parts. Essentially the stomach area and the claws need to be separated. If the claws are too big you can break them into two parts as well. Most traditional recipes don’t talk about marination, but I normally add two heaped tea-spoons of salt and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to the crabs. If you like your’s spicy you may even add one teaspoon of red chilli powder to the mix. Spread it well and keep the crabs aside for a minimum of 10 minutes. Coconut: Break the coconut. A Herculean task. Don’t try it yourself, ask your South Indian maid to do it in the morning. She’s a master at this. If you wish to do itself here’s a guide on how to go about it…goo.gl/xDACk. Please don’t blame me for loss or limb, fingers or other more important male bodily parts. You need the coconut flesh now. Boiling it for about 5-10 minutes then running it under some cold water and letting it sit for another 5-10 minutes. The softer flesh shrinks back to its original shape quicker than the harder shell and you can very easily slip in a knife or a spoon and pull the whole flesh out in one go. Again be careful, I know a friend who sliced her palm while taking out the flesh. Once you have got sufficient flesh, put it in your grinder and give it a whirl. You need about half a cup of grated coconut for the dish. Onions: Slice 2 medium sized onions. Use a wet knife, it tends to keep the tears away. Use the plastic gloves if you don’t want to reek of onions and garlic! Try and ensure the slices are circular and the rings separated. Tamarind Juice: A simple way to get the juice is put a couple of pieces of tamarind in half a cup of boiling water. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then squeeze the pulp in the cup and voila, you have tamarind juice! Start Cooking: On a high flame roast the grated coconut in your cooking pan. This needs to be done dry. Once the coconut is a light brown transfer the roasted coconut to your grinder bowl and let it cool down. In the same pan on a high flame roast 10 -12 Kashmiri or local red chillies, again without oil. After 1 minute add 2 tablespoons dhaniya seeds, 10-12 peppercorns and 4 cloves. Roast them for another minute and then transfer the roasted spices to the grinder where your roasted coconut is waiting. (If you like your food spicy, you can add 2 chopped green chillies to the grinder mix as well) Let the mixture cool for a couple of minutes and then add 1 tablespoon of water along with 1 tablespoon of the tamarind juice without the pulp in the grinder bowl. Now grind this to a fine paste. I find 45 seconds to 1 minute usually does the trick. Time to pour oil in your pan – 2 to 3 tablespoons is adequate. Any more and the oil will stay in the food and form a film on the gravy. Heat the oil on a high flame and then add the onions. Fry them for about 3 minutes, the onions will first turn translucent and then start browning. At this point stir in 1 teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste and 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder. You need to fry this mixture for about 15 to 20 seconds, basically to let the masalas mix well with the onions. If you didn’t have the Kashmiri Chillies you can add 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli powder to give it a red colour. Add the crabs to this mixture, stir it well. Pour the half cup of tamarind juice without seeds and pulp along with 1/4 cup of water. This should just about cover the crabs. If you want some more gravy add another 1/4 cup of water. Resist the temptation to add more water; you will find the curry too watery. Cover the pan and let it cook on high flame for about 10-12 minutes.
Use this time to pour yourself a wine. I am told a semi dry Sauvignon Blanc is a good accompaniment.I personally prefer a beer, try one of the Indus Pride spiced variants or even a good Japanese single malt like the Nikka, not too complex with a soft maltiness and gentle on the palate.
Cook the preparation open for another 5 minutes, the gravy thickens and starts coating the crabs.
|4 – 5 medium sized crabs|
|1/2 a cup of grated coconut|
|10 – 12 Kashmiri Chillies or dried Local Red Chillies|
|2 tbsps Coriander Seeds neé dhaniya|
|10 – 12 Malabar peppercorns|
|2 – 3 Green Chillies|
|2 Medium sized Onions|
|1 – 2 tsps Ginger-Garlic Paste|
|1/2 tsp Tumeric neé haldi powder|
|1/2 a cup of Tamarind neé imli juice|
|Salt to taste|