Famous Chef’s Pineapple Curry Makes Meat-Free January Easier
Pineapples in a basket in Mexico. (Photographer: Mauricio Palos/Bloomberg)

Famous Chef’s Pineapple Curry Makes Meat-Free January Easier

Everyone seems to be giving up something for January. Even I am not drinking, though my diet doesn’t extend to a meat-free month.

For those who are forsaking pleasures of the flesh, I have a really delicious Indian dish where fruit is the star. Chef Camellia Panjabi’s pineapple curry, with coconut, is subtly spiced and refreshing. (Having said that, I also tried my own version with slices of pork.)

I first tasted pineapple curry at Veeraswamy, on Regent Street, London’s oldest surviving Indian restaurant. Camellia’s family owns Veeraswamy, and while this recipe differs from the restaurant’s, Camellia says there are similarities. Fruit curries are popular in Assam and along the west  coast of India. Camellia says she got this version from a Brahmin chef at the Taj hotel in Mangalore.

Famous Chef’s Pineapple Curry Makes Meat-Free January Easier

The recipe appears in Camellia’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook, which has sold 1.75 million copies worldwide. (It’s called The Great Curries of India in the U.S. edition.)

She is a veteran of India’s hotel industry and was a key figure in the expansion of Taj Hotels, including opening the Bombay Brasserie in London in 1983. Her family’s MW Eat group also owns the Chutney Mary, Amaya and Masala Zone restaurants.

If Camellia is a grand dame of Indian fine dining, she is remarkably unstuffy, saying it is fine to use some bottled ingredients (e.g. ginger and garlic) if you are in a hurry. She didn’t even raise an eyebrow when I confessed to the pork. “Sounds almost Hawaiian,” she said. “But that is creative. It is something they might do in Assam. They cook a lot of pork.”

I like the simplicity of the recipe and the fact there are so few ingredients. The only one I couldn’t find at a supermarket was mustard powder, which I ordered online. I did go off recipe at the end, adding the juice of half a lime to increase the sharpness. (Camellia approved of this, too, saying it is a matter of taste how sweet or sour the dish should be, and also that pineapples vary so much, it’s natural to adjust the recipe.)

The recipe serves four. As usual, I ate it all myself, with only a marginal downsizing of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 cup grated coconut

450 grams (1 pound) fresh pineapple, peeled and cubed

¼ teaspoon mustard powder

2 green chilis

½ tsp salt

2 tablespoons oil, butter or ghee

A pinch of mustard seeds

12 curry leaves

2 red chilis, broken into pieces

1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

For the marinade:

1/3 tsp mustard powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1½ - 2 tsps sugar (depending on sourness of pineapple)

¼ tsp salt

Preparation:

Put half of the grated coconut in a bowl with 130 milliliters (4.4 fluid ounces) of warm water and set aside for 15 minutes. Then squeeze out the coconut milk. You should get about 100 ml.

Put the pineapple into a bowl. Mix the marinade ingredients and a little water in a small bowl and sprinkle over all the pineapple. Mix well. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Put the remaining grated coconut, mustard powder, green chilis (without stem), salt and 200 ml of water into a blender and purée.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan. When smoking hot, add the pinch of mustard seeds and when they pop, add the curry leaves and stir. They will release their fragrance into the oil. After a minute or so, add the red chilis and stir. After a few seconds (and before red chilis turn very dark) add the pineapple. Stir for 10 minutes.

Add the puréed coconut mixture and the coconut milk. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt and sugar if necessary. Cook for 5 minutes or until preferred texture of pineapple is reached, Garnish with coriander leaves to serve.

(Best with white rice and accompanied by a green vegetable such as potatoes with spinach or fenugreek.)

Richard Vines is Chief Food Critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.

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