The language of old-fashioned Indian menus in American restaurants was a kind of code. “Madras” this or “Madras” that didn’t tell you that the dish in question was an authentic creation from that great Indian city; it told you that your “curry” will have tomatoes in it. The following recipe has ’em, and curry powder as well—for as our restaurants have demonstrated over and over again, “authentic” is not a pre-requisite for “delicious.”
6 large cloves garlic, peeled
2-inch chunk of peeled ginger
about 18 canned tomatoes in tomato purée
¼ cup ghee
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
8 cardamom pods, crushed and seeds removed
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 bay leaf
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of cayenne
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1½ pounds peeled and deveined medium shrimp, tailless
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1. In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger, and 1/2 cup of water. Purée into a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve.
2. In the blender, purée enough of the tomatoes to make 1 cup tomato purée. Reserve purée, along with the remaining tomatoes.
3. In a medium pot, over medium-high heat, heat the ghee. Add the cumin, fennel, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, sugar, turmeric, and cayenne and cook, stirring until dark and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook, stirring, until most of the water has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved tomato purée to the mixture and cook, stirring, until dark red, about 3 minutes.
4. Add 3½ cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened to a sauce-like consistency, about 20 minutes.
5. Whisk in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Cook until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter until incorporated. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Greene