“Once upon a time there was a young girl who grew up in Bombay surrounded by coconut trees and some curry leaf in her fathers small but beautiful garden. A few years later she went on an impromptu trip with her friends to Dubai where she met a handsome young man.They fell in love and he took her on his magic carpet into the culinary world of Kerala cuisine and she lived happily ever after. “

Introducing my new best friend, the CURRY LEAF. He stands a close to Mr Coconut oil. Curry leaves are packed with vitamin A, B, C, D and E. The curry leaf tree is from the citrus family. Popularly and widely used in the kitchens of South India it is also found in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Singapore, and Cambodia.

That punch of its flavour is best when used freshly snapped right off the tree. It really does not matter when you add it in your dish. Some recipes will add curry leaves first, some last and some in between. Curry leaves can be used fresh, frozen or dried. Though I always prefer to use fresh curry leaves, it may not  be so easy to come by if your not living in India. Hence in order to preserve them I take off the leaves and freeze them in a glass jar.

My fondest memory of this amazing ingredient is walking into a popular South Indian restaurant called Calicut Paragon in Kerala and watching in awe as the chef there threw more than a handful  of curry leaves into hot oil just before frying up some delicious coconut crumbed prawns. Coming from Bombay and with Goan/ Manglorean roots I had never seen this before and thought it was a superb way to introduce flavour into coconut oil right before frying your fish or meat. Apparently they follow the same process (curry leaves in oil) and apply this oil, once cooled, for thicker and darker hair.

Now let me list my favourite ways to use the curry leaf. There are the usual stews, curry’s, fresh vegetables, rice, breads, drinks, raita and it also features in the most delicious South Indian snacks and breakfast preparations. But the potency of this fragrant leaf is especially predominant when it is used as a marinade, in buttermilk, in podis, in chutneys or roasted and added to freshly ground masalas (think madras curry powder). 

Try this traditional curry leaf peanut chutney powder  

1/3 cup of peanuts (dry roasted for 2 mins and left to cool.)

1/2 a cup of curry leaves.(roasted in the same pan for 2 mins and cooled.)

3 whole dry red chillies  

2 tsp coriander 

3 tsp cumin  

6 cloves of garlic (roast all for 2 minutes. Careful don’t burn them:)


1/2 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp jaggery

Salt and pepper to taste

Grind all these coarsely. You are looking for a roughly ground powder. Adjust your seasonings or the quantity of ingredients as you go along as some like this sweeter or saltier or spicy. Serve with dosas, idilis, on hot rice with ghee, eggs or anything you prefer. It’s always good to experiment with flavours.

I’ll let you in on another experiment. So we’ve all eaten potato chips but how about Curry Chips

Super easy! Slice your potatoes and salt them. After a while pat them dry. Get your oil hot and add a bunch of curry leaves. Stand back, it will splutter and pop. Immediately add your potato in batches. Fry until golden and and place them on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil. Now toss in any mix of homemade roasted curry powder. Top with some lime, mayonnaise, roasted  and roughly crushed peanuts and come chopped coriander. Yum!

Now for Mama Iona’s (my late and very sweet mother-in-laws) Prawn Pulav.

Let’s eyeball this one like they did everything in the olden days. If you know how to make a pulav you are set.😊 Ps: I have added measurements for die hard fans looking for precise proportions.

-Take Two cup’s of basmati rice. Wash and soak it for ten minutes.

-Take some medium sized prawns (around 1/2 kg), clean, devein and toss them with very little turmeric and salt.

 -In a vessel set on a medium flame put some oil. (Try coconut, but you could use regular oil). Throw in some spices –  6 cardamom, 2 cinnamon, 10 peppercorns, 6 cloves) and let them sizzle for a few seconds.

-Add  two medium sized finely sliced onions along with two or three green chillies. Add two chopped tomatoes and some chilly powder if you like it spicier.

– And a tsp. of ginger/garlic paste.

-In a mixer grind coarsely handfuls of washed fresh mint, coriander and our dear curry leaf. One handful each. Add this to the pot.

-Now take your already seasoned prawns and add them to the mix and sauté them for a minute or two.

– Add your soaked and drained rice. Stir it gently in the pot with all those ingredients for a minute.

– Now here’s how you add the water. You always double it to the rice. So one cup rice; to two cups water. 

-Taste your water for salt. Add more salt if you need to.

– At this point for extra flavour you could even grate in a stock cube but remember that you’ve already added the salt.

-Let it come to a gentle bubble on a medium flame. Turn you flame down low and cover the lid tightly and step away for exactly ten minutes.

Don’t open it!

-After exactly ten minutes, turn the flame off and gently fork the steaming rice.

(Do not cover it at this point. If you do you will end up with sticky overcooked rice)

-Top it with some chopped coriander, a squeeze of lime and some toasted cashew nuts and fried raisins if you like.

P.S.- If spicy, a lovely simple raita on the side does the trick.

 You can follow me  – Instagram: @cheriillustrates @cheridafernandez  Email: [email protected]. All art work and photography is copyright protected. Art work by Cherida Fernandez

Cherida Fernandez – Dubai/Mumbai/Kerala/ Goa



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