"This is one of my very favourite curries, and one I like to cook for any occasion worth celebrating," says Carey. "It's relatively simple to make yet it has a complex flavour and also looks very impressive. It's hot, spicy, messy and requires you to get involved." Start this recipe a day ahead to marinate the crab.
- 10 raw blue swimmer crabs (4kg; preferably male – they have larger claws)
- 100 gm ghee
- 2 Spanish onions, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 70 gm ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 5 small green chillies, thinly sliced
- 1 cup (loosely packed) curry leaves
- 20 gm (¼ cup) Sri Lankan curry powder (see note)
- 1 tbsp each fennel seeds and brown mustard seeds
- 2 tsp each hot chilli powder and ground coriander
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 100 ml tamarind extract (see note)
- 2 cups coriander leaves, plus chopped roots and stalks (cut near root and washed)
- To taste: fresh lime juice
- To serve: rice or flatbread
- 1Hold each crab over a bowl as you prepare them to keep all the lovely juices. Use your fingers to find the triangular flap, lift and remove the whole top shell (keep the top shell of half the crabs to cook; this is purely for visual impact). Discard the feathery gills and place the crab on a board. Cut in half from top to bottom with a sharp heavy knife and lightly bash both large claws with the back of a cleaver to crack the shell. Repeat with remaining crabs, then refrigerate them, along with the reserved top shells. Refrigerate juice in bowl.
- 2Melt ghee in a large wide saucepan over medium heat, then add onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and curry leaves and fry, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened (5 minutes). Dry-roast curry powder in a frying pan until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add to pan along with remaining spices and sea salt and stir regularly until you feel the spices starting to catch on the bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Mix in coconut milk and tamarind, add the reserved crab juice and bring to the boil, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add crab pieces, mix well and refrigerate overnight.
- 3Bring crab mixture to room temperature. Place a very large (see note) saucepan on high heat and leave it until it becomes very hot so it retains heat when crab mixture is added, then add crab mixture and chopped coriander roots and stalks, let mixture start to sizzle, gently stir for a moment (this can be with such a full saucepan), then cover with a lid. Continue cooking covered, lifting lid to move the crabs about every few minutes, until crabs turn orange and are cooked through (about 20 minutes). Check seasoning, squeeze in some lime juice and serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.
Note Sri Lankan curry powder is available from Herbies Spices, and Sri Lankan or Indian food shops. Tamarind extract is available from Asian food shops. If a very large saucepan is unavailable, cook crab in two large saucepans.