Have you ever had that moment where you wish you could just share one of your favorite comfort dishes in a sophisticated, stylish manner, fit to wow a dinner crowd? I usually get that kind of If-only-I-could idea when I’m rotating around the kitchen, juggling three or more dishes, wishing I had remembered to pick at least one dish I can breeze through on auto-pilot. Well, during this past New Year’s Dinner prep-work, my tummy did a wonderful job of nudging me into the right direction~
While I was working my way through several small accompaniments, sauces and chutneys for our traditional fondue, a gut-wrenching craving for my favorite seafood curry, a Mustard and Coconut Prawn Curry with a twist, blindsided me senseless. Knowing that all people gathering around that evening’s dinner table would enjoy the curry just as much as I do, I racked my brain and store cupboard for a way to doll the curry up as a fingerfood’y starter. A packet of chickpea flour provided the last tiny spark I needed to come up with a variation of my usual blinis as a base for the curry. As evidenced by my serving platter blinking at me just a few blinks after hitting the table, pristine white and innocent as if I had never placed anything on it, my skirting the stereotypical idea of a seafood fingerfood tray with a pretty, delicious and very easy-to-make, sparkly version of a true comfort dish was a rousing success. So, here’s one of my all-time-favorites, and a slightly showy way of serving it~
For 15-20 of these bites you’ll need:
The Chickpea Blinis
Blinis, stereotypically the base for caviar and other ponzy goods along those lines, are a wonderfully versatile “carrier” for anything you could possibly turn into fingerfood’y bites once you’ve aired out the stuffy “evening gown, champagne and white tablecloths” mental image the word “Blini” might conjure up. These, basically being mini-pancakes with a bit more substance to them, also do a wonderful job as a sort-of side dish or semi-cuttlery, if you will – they excel at soaking up sauces when nobody’s watching~!
You can prep these up to 12 hours before plating up the bites, by the way. Just leave them to cool off entirely before stacking them into an airtight container. If you’re going through with the whole thing in one go, start with the Blini dough, it needs to rest for an hour, which leaves you with enough time to do the curry related prep-work.
60ml Skimmed Milk
12,5g fresh Yeast
30g Greek Yoghurt or Cashew Nut Paste
120g Chickpea Flour
½ Tsp Sugar
½ Tsp Salt
1 Pinch of sweet Chilli Powder
1 Pinch of hot Chilli Flakes
Ghee or Sunflower Oil for the pan
1) Pour the milk into a small pot and gently warm it up on low heat. Lukewarm is what you’re aiming for – too hot would kill the yeast.
2) Take the pot off the heat, crumble in the yeast, add the sugar and gently stir the mix to dissolve the components.
3) Once the mixture is smooth and lump-free, stir in the yoghurt or nut paste along with the eggs and spices.
4) Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then work in the yeast mix with a fork. Once the dough starts to come together, switch the fork with a wooden spoon and work the lot until it’s smooth and even.
5) Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and place it in a warm spot to rest for 1 hour.
6) Set a heavy-based pan onto medium heat and brush it with 2 tbsp of ghee or oil.
7) To turn the dough into pretty Blinis, pick up 1 tbsp of dough per Blini and let it drip, slowly and evenly, off the spoon into the pan. You could use small, round cookie cutters or dessert rings if you wanted them absolutely perfectly shaped, but since the dough is on the thicker, slow-running side of all things dough, a small nudge with the spoon here and there does the job just as well.
Whatever shape related measures you choose to take, keep in mind that the finished bites should be exactly that – a bite. Something you can pick up and poof out of existence without making a mess or looking like an overly enthusiastic hamster.
8) Make sure not to crowd your pan. Depending on the size of your pan, 4-5 Blinis at once should work nicely, just don’t lower the temperature of the pan by adding too much dough at once and make sure the blobs end up in the pan in an evenly spaced pattern – enough space to handle flipping them with a small spatula without wreaking havoc on the neighbors of the blini in question.
9) Fry the Blinis until they’re golden on both sides – about 2 mins per side. Chickpea flour can be a bit iffy depending on it’s quality, so, to be sure about the timing, have a peek beneath one of them after around 1-1,5 mins. A bit of crisp on the Blinis doesn’t hurt – at least not in my humble opinion – but undercooked chickpea dough is a rather unpleasant thing to chew on.
10) Set the finished Blinis onto paper towels while you work your way through the rest of the dough.
The Mustard-Coconut Prawn Curry
500g King or Black Tiger Prawns, cleaned and shelled
2 small Persimmons, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced – set a couple of decorative slices aside if you’re going with the fingerfood-version
½ Habanero, very finely diced
Alt: A less “pro” type of aromatic chill in case these are more pain than pleasure for you~ The chillies in this curry are there to add another layer of flavors, not to blow your socks off. Whichever you pick, steer clear of the smoked ones.
1 large Shallot, sliced into thin half-moons
Pinch of Sea Salt
2 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
½ Tsp Red Chilli Flakes
1 Tsp Turmeric
2 Tsp freshly ground Ginger
3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 heaped Tsp of Cornflour
150-200 ml Coconut Milk – depending on how thick you’d like your sauce
3 heaped Tbsp toasted Coconut Flakes
5 Tbsp Mustard Oil
½ Tsp Fennel Seeds
1 Tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½ Tsp Coriander Seeds
About ½ a bunch worth of Coriander Leaves to garnish
1) Place the salt, turmeric, chili and 1 tbsp of the mustard oil to a bowl large enough to accommodate the prawns and whisk the lot until all of the spices are well blended.
2) Add the prawns and gently turn them in the marinade until all of them are glossed with a thin coat of the spiced oil.
3) Set the bowl aside and leave the prawns to marinate for about 30 mins. This would be the perfect time to prep the blinis if you didn’t get them out of the way in advance.
4) Sieve the starch into a small bowl and dissolve it in a splash of water. Make sure to have at it until there’s not a single lump in sight. Add the mustard and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
5) Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan large enough to hold the curry set on medium-high, then add the seeds.
6) Fry them, jiggling the pan from time to time, until they start to give off small crackling noises and dance around in the hot oil.
7) Add the chillies, fresh and dried, and the sliced shallot to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
8) Cook the lot for about 5 mins until the shallots are tender.
9) Pop in the garlic and ginger, fold them into the mix and continue to cook the blend for another minute.
10) Stir in the mustard mix and the toasted coconut flakes until the ingredients are well combined, cover the pan with a lid and give the proto-curry around 4-5 mins to develop it’s flavors.
11) Gently fold the prawns into the sauce with a rubber spatula.
12) Once all of them are covered with a comfy yellow coat, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir the coconut milk. Add it in a slow and steady trickle, just enough for the sauce to reach the kind of creamy thickness that nicely covers your prawns without seeping off the Blinis – 125-150ml usually do the trick, depending on the fat content and quality of the milk in front of you. If you’re skipping the Blini-way of serving in favor of a comfort-food’y hug-in-a-bowl, simply stir in 200-250ml of coconut milk.
13) Leave the prawns to simmer in the sauce for about more 2 mins, then tip the contents of your pan out into a bowl.
14) Fold in the coriander leaves and persimmon slices and get ready to either deal with arranging the curry on showy Blinis or to defend your bowl against greedy spoons in case you’re having it as a simple main dish.
Assembling the Dish
1) Spread the Blinis out on a serving tray. Make sure to leave enough space in between to comfortably pick them up with hungry fingers~
2) Arrange 2 generously coated prawns on top of each and ganish the heaps with a coriander leaf and a pretty slice of persimmon.
3) If theres still some room on the Blini, add some more of the sauce for an extra boost of juicy yum just before serving~