Mallika Basu’s easy coconut curry recipes

Lifestyle

Three curries – one meat, one fish, one veg – that put a tin of coconut milk to work alongside a rich array of spices for mellow autumnal comfort

Lamb meatballs with mint
Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 3-4

2 tbsp coconut oil
350g lamb meatballs (ie, a pack of 12)
4 green cardamom pods
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
2.5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (at least 75% coconut)
5–6 mint sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped, plus a few extra leaves, to garnish
Salt and black pepper

Put the coconut oil into a wok or saute pan over a high heat and, when hot, add the meatballs. Quickly sear on all sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Drop the cardamom pods into the pan and, when they sizzle, stir in the chopped onion. Saute for five minutes, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another five minutes, until golden. If the ingredients start sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water and stir to loosen them.

Add the fennel seeds, white pepper and green chilli, saute for a couple of minutes, then pour in 125ml hot water. Bring to a boil, pushing down the onions with your spoon to help them disintegrate. Stir in the coconut milk and chopped mint, then return the browned meatballs to the pan. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until oil oozes out of the curry and the meatballs are cooked through. To finish, add salt to taste, top with mint leaves and black pepper, and serve.

Baked salmon and tamarind
Prep 15 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4

3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
15–20 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)
6 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp black pepper
4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (at least 75% coconut)
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 skinless salmon fillets

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/350F/gas 5. Put the oil in a saute pan or wok over a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and half the curry leaves. When they start to sizzle, mix in the shallots and saute for five minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another five to seven minutes, until the mixture is pale golden.

Add the turmeric, chilli powder, pepper and tomatoes, stir for two or so minutes, until the mix turns pulpy, then stir in the coconut milk. While it’s coming up to a simmer, mix the tamarind paste into 500ml hot water, then pour into the pan. Lower the heat and let everything simmer vigorously for five minutes, until you can see oil oozing through the surface of the curry.

Put the salmon fillets in an oven-to-table dish, cover with the curry mix, scatter over the remaining curry leaves and bake, loosely covered, for 20 minutes. Remove, leave to cool and settle for a few minutes, then serve.

Peanut and sesame aubergine
Prep 15 min
Soak 1 hr
Cook 50 min
Serves 4–6

For tempering
2 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
10–12 curry leaves

For the curry
700g baby aubergines
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
4 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter (with no added sugar or salt)
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (at least 75% coconut)
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp tamarind paste
Salt
1 small handful peanuts, roughly crushed, to garnish

First, soak the aubergines in a large bowl of cold salted water for at least an hour. Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Drain the aubergines, pat dry with kitchen paper, then make slits in them, keeping the tops intact. Transfer to the lined tray and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, temper the spices. Put the oil in a wok or heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and, once hot, toss in the seeds and the curry leaves. When they start to sizzle, add the onion and saute for five minutes, stirring to coat in the spices. Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies, and cook for five more minutes. Now add the coriander, chilli powder and turmeric and stir well for a couple of minutes. If the spice mixture starts to stick, add a few tablespoons of hot water and scrape it off the base of the pan. If your peanut butter is a little stiff, give it a mix with some of the coconut milk in a hand blender, then add to the pan with the rest of the coconut milk and the tahini. Cook for five minutes at a high simmer, then stir in the tamarind paste and add salt to taste.

Finally, drop the roast aubergines into the pan, spoon the curry over the top to warm them through, then serve with a smattering of roughly crushed peanuts.