King prawns with tamarind & coconut

In the Seychelles they love their curries hot and spicy, with lashings of coconut milk – in fact it’s unheard of not to add coconut to a curry (you will get surprised looks). Here I have freshly ground the spices to make a traditional Seychellois ʻmassaléʼ – and it packs a punch. It is also used in the Seychellois aubergine & chickpea cari (p.119). Tamarind pulp is made from the flesh inside the tamarind pod, and the brown-red concentrate has a sticky, date-like consistency that is tart and sour, heightening the flavour in salads, curries and even desserts. I love the fleshy prawns, sweet coconut and tangy tamarind combination here. Serve it with rice, a fresh salad and your favourite chilli sauce or chutney.

The Island Kitchen by Selina Periampillai (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26) is out now. Photography by Yuki Sugiura.

Ingredients Serves: 2

  • 15–20 fresh raw king prawns (350g), peeled, deveined and cleaned
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 green chillies, split lengthways
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp tomato purée or 1 tomato, diced
  • 3 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 For the Seychellois ʻmassaléʼ

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 6 cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 1⁄2 tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick or
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg


  1. First make the massalé. In a small pan over a medium-high heat, dry-roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon for 30 seconds until aromatic, being careful not to let them burn.
  2. Grind all the dry ingredients in a spice grinder or pulverise using a pestle and mortar. Add in the chilli powder and nutmeg.
  3. Place in an airtight jar and keep for future use (this will make more than you need in this recipe).
  4. Season the prawns with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan on a medium-high heat. Fry the onion for 3–4 minutes until softened, then add in the garlic, ginger, chillies and curry leaves to cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
  6. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the massalé, the turmeric and the tomato, stirring gently.
  7. Pour in the tamarind and coconut milk and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced.
  8. Add in the prawns and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 minutes until they are opaque and tender.
  9. Check the seasoning and, to finish, garnish with parsley and lime wedges.
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