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A FISHY TALE . . . . .

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So that’s it – ONAM (and all the other combined Festivals which come up every year around this time) is now over and everything in our beautiful State of Kerala, where the people are blessed with an abundance of Coconuts, Spices and most of all with the Treasures of the Sea, has returned to the usual normality.

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This year we did not make our own Sadhya of 18 delectable dishes – instead we went out visiting!!!

But when JS went out to our little local market ‘around the corner’ to visit his ‘friendly fish man’ – you know the kind who quietly lets you know of some special kind of fish coming in, when the price of prawns will go up or down! Who takes trouble in cleaning your order etc. etc. – in order to maybe get some extra treats for the long ONAM week, he not only succeeded in getting some lovely looking Karimeen (Pearl spot)

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which he and the girls love fried with just the right amount of his ‘secret’ masala massaged into the fish, but he returned home with also a special surprise for me!! A whole THIRUTHA (Grey Mullet).

This is a fish extremely popular especially with the visiting Tourists, who love to order this fish whole so it can be shared amongst two to three people.
Thirutha is available normally in abundance, but because of its very delicate taste any catch gets snapped up by Hotels, Restaurants and even certain vendors, especially in places like Fort Cochin, where domestic and foreign tourists can choose their own fish, have it grilled right there and then and enjoyed ‘al fresco’ mainly along the seafront by the famous “Chinese Nets”.

But now I have to confess something here to you – when it comes to fish I am just a little bit squeamish. I am certainly not a female Rick Stein, the seafood master himself, and so looking at and handling a large fish, head, eyes, etc, does not come easy for me. But surely . . . one is never too old to learn, right!?

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And so, with JS’ help and under his guidance, I set about in tackling this nice, fresh, slippery ‘friend’. This being my first attempt of cooking Thirutha I decided to keep it simple and just steam the fish in foil with some vegetables (after all – it’s healthy, too) – and here now is the result!

It turned out to be a really delishes meal and now I want to think up a different recipe using the same kind of fish– there is of course always a curry!!

This fish may look big for you – but in the end it was just enough for the two of us. Unfortunately I did not weigh him, just as a matter of interest.

And here is what I did:
1 x whole Thirutha, scaled and gutted by “Friendly Fish Man”
At home washed and dried thoroughly.

I made 5 incisions into the back of the Thirutha and then rubbed a mixture of salt, pepper and 1 tsp of dried Dill all over the fish (including the inside).
Sprinkle fresh lemon juice over the whole fish incl. the inside.

Prepare vegetables: I used carrots, leeks, onion slices and parsley
I blanched the three vegetables in photo for just 2 minutes, not more!! Drain well.

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Preheat oven to 180/200 C
Put fish onto a double layer of foil, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil around fish, add blanched vegetables incl. a couple of half cooked potatoes.

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Now make the foil into a parcel and leave in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes – check!!! Ovens vary in temperature.

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When done open foil carefully, averting your face – steam is really hot! Taste and when cooked (fish should not be dry) keep fish parcel open on top of oven in order to cool down slightly.

Carefully take the fish off the bone from one side first and put on a plate with the vegetables and just a few plain boiled potatoes.

As an edition I served separately some dill-lemon-butter-sauce.

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There is a saying in German, my mother tongue, which goes:

……Uebung macht den Meister”. (Meaning: Practice maketh the Master) – so now I will try and make fish more often!

But for now, THAT’S IT!

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Guten Appetit!
Carina

Ulli Theeyal (Little Onion Curry)

ഉള്ളി കറി

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This is a wonderful sidedish to our Kerala Cuisine, mostly associated with part of the traditional Onam Sadhya, but if you like onions, and we certainly do, I promise you it is very difficult to resist not having it fairly frequently as a side dish to any curry or just with some rice or even just with a couple of freshly made chapattis or parathas. The choice is yours – all I am asking is that you please do give this dish a try.

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Before you start your preparation make sure you have a small face towel near you (to wipe away the ‘tears’ which will come from peeling a small heap of tiny onions), some music to while away the time needed for peeling and also assemble all the remaining ingredients within easy reach.

For the Theeyal you see in the final dish I used 2 heaped cups of peeled onions – and as you can see there is not too much to show for in the end and that’s the reason why I normally make 2 or 3 times the amount for us two!!

Soak a small lump of Tamarind pulp in luke warm water for 15 mins, squeeze, discard the pulp but retain the brown water for later.

Over medium to lowish heat gently fry 1.5 cups of grated coconut*, 5 dry red hot chillies*, 1.5 tsp of coriander seeds, 1-2 Tbsp of sliced onions, 1 Tbsp of broken cashewnuts*, – keep gently stirring all the time, if anything burns throw away and start afresh.

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The coconut should take on a dark! Colour (I personally prefer just a slight shade lighter).

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When done, let it cool down a bit and then in your Mixy grind all this to a very fine paste, adding a spoon full of water if needed. Keep aside.

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Now in a large deep pan or wok heat up 2 tsp of coconut oil* or vegetable oil if preferred, still working on low heat now, add a dash of turmeric powder, mix and then add all your washed little onions and at least 6 green chillies*, slit in half.

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Keep stirring until everything is well mixed, turn up your heat to medium, keep stirring and once the onions start taking on colour add the tamarind water. Bring this quickly to a boil, add all the ground masala from your Mixy, check for salt and also add some more plain water, maybe ½ cup or so. Stir once more, cover with a lid, turn down the heat a bit and let it cook until the gravy thickens. This might take anything from 15 to 20 minutes – just keep checking. At the very end, when everything is cooked, add 1-2 tsp of brown sugar*, mix and serve.

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Now in a small pan heat 1 tsp of coconut oil, add just ¼ tsp of mustard seeds and a tiny pinch of fenugreek seeds (rubbed between your fingers to release their beautiful flavour) and 1 or 2 dried red chillies, and when the seeds finish crackling, pour this over your Ulli theeyal.

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Bring to your table and watch the smile on the faces of all who are eating this – like we do shortly when we sit down for our lunch.

Notes:
• Try to use very small onions, otherwise cut in half.
• Frozen grated coconut is fine but never use dehydrated!!
• You can of course use less or more of those red chillies, but 5 are just right (I think).
• Use broken cashewnuts, they are cheaper than the whole once – after all they go into the Mixy.
• Personally I only use a tiny amount of Sweetener.
• If you can get coconut oil use it, it brings out the flavours more – otherwise vegetable oil is fine.
• And by the way – it tastes even better the next day IF you have any left.
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Carina

Potato Curry Kerala style

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This past weekend was supposed to be a very relaxing one – we had plans, like most people, to do this, that and the other, but….. like all well laid out plans things went slightly wrong. No – wait! – what do I say here, have to correct myself by typing “…things went from bad to worse!

I will not bore you with my problems, you might have some of your own and the last thing you want me to whine on and on and on…….

Just one thing I will tell you briefly, so you understand for this very short entry today.

Our small fridge in which we keep most of the items I plan to cook for this Blog (and for us of course) decided to go into sort of hibernation, i.e. stopped working!! Having just been to our fairly new Hypermarket we had stocked up on many things, like meat, fish etc.

But on Saturday night (do these things not always happen either over a weekend or holiday??) this little fridge decided to pack up. No electricity went in to feed it. So everything had to be moved to the big fridge which was already packed. Sunday I cooked as much as possible of the by now thawed items in order to rescue whatever I could.

So today finally all this was sorted out and the fridge is finally working again!

So I leave you for now with our own house-version of Kerala Potato Curry, which we enjoyed for lunch.

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Potato Curry Kerala style

For 2 large portions I used:

6 x medium potatoes, cubed
1 x big onion, cubed
6 x garlic cloves (ours are quite small), chopped
Some fresh ginger, chopped
4 x green chillies, split
A generous pinch of Turmeric powder
2 x tsp of Sambar powder
1 x Tbsp Garam Masala powder
1 x Bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to your own taste
1-2 x Tbsp of Coconut oil
Some Mustard seeds and some Fennel Seeds
1 x Bayleaf
½ cup of good Vegetable Stock
A couple of dried red chillies
Coconut Milk
Some Curry leaves

Method:

Boil your prepared potatoes until they are just a tiny bit under-done. Drain and keep aside.

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In a deep pan or wok heat 1 Tbsp of oil on medium heat and when slightly hot add the mustard-, fennel-seeds and Bayleaf, stir for a couple of seconds only and then add the onions, ginger, garlic and the green chillis.

Let this simmer for a couple of minutes.

Make sure your heat is on low, because you do not want to burn your Masala.

Add Sambar powder, Garam Masala, salt and pepper and turmeric – keep stirring for a few more minutes. Add Vegetable Stock before it gets too dry.
Now add your boiled and drained potatoes to your Masala and stir gently; check seasoning.

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Keep heat still on low whilst you add ¼ to ½ cup of thick coconut milk and let this simmer for 5 more minutes.
Take off flame. Keep aside.

In a separate little pan heat little bit of oil, mustard seeds, some curry leaves and 2 red chillies and after a few seconds pour over your finished Potato Curry.

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Bring to your table and enjoy.

Guten Appetit – enjoy your meal – znegosmac – buon appetito – bon appétit – ทานให้อร่อยนะ –
Carina

Little Torpedoes on a bed of green waves (Green Gram and little sausages)

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Some time ago one of our friends came visiting with her little boy Patrick. Whilst having lunch he started playing with his food and like nearly all mothers my friend too immediately said “… don’t play with your food, Patrick”. But he, quick as a flash answered “I am not playing, I love Auntie’s Dal, but first I have to position my little torpedoes (i.e. sausages) on the green waves, before I can eat…” So, from then on we call this dish Patrick’s dish.

Now I don’t know about you – I just loooooove Dal (in fact too much sometimes, I think). I could happily live on Dal for weeks at a stretch. So there for you most likely can always find at least a couple of containers of my favourite legumes waiting in the fridge to be consumed sooner rather than later in one recipe or another.

Some need no soaking, some just a few hours and some I soak for 48 hours, since I do not use a pressure cooker – YET! (I actually purchased a small one just for my dried beans, the other day, but I am still too scared to use it!!!)

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Here this green gram (also known as mung beans), I either soak just over night (if used for breakfast the next day) or around 4 hours from early morning on for use later on in the day. They cook relatively quickly then, 15-20 minutes. Cooking them any longer will make them mushy, which is fine if you want to make soup, for example.

I wanted to use up some previously boiled green gram I had in my fridge as well as some little sausages which asked to be eaten.
The result was a delicious, quick, healthy protein snack which I like sharing with you here.

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For 2 people I used the following:
1 x cup green gram (previously soaked and washed again)
1 x Tbsp Vegetable Oil (I like to use as little oil as possible)
1 x large Onion, sliced thinly
3 x garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 x tsp freshly grated ginger (or paste)
1 – 1 ½ x tsp red chilli flakes (adjust to your own heat intake)
1 x tsp Cumin seeds
Salt and pepper, as needed

A good handful of fresh coriander (I use the coriander stalks together with the gram whilst cooking for additional taste – and remove later, if you like)
1 Knorr – Vegetable- or Chicken Stock Cube
2-3 x cups of either fresh Stock or use the above mentioned cube (works well!)
1/2 x cup of natural yoghurt/curd
Some nice sausages you might like particularly, beef, pork, chicken, whatever!

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Method:
Heat your pan on medium heat, add oil and fry your choice sausages for a few minutes until they are nicely browned and done.
Remove with tongue and keep aside.

Add all your onions into this pan and cook until they are soft; when ready add cumin, garlic and chilli flakes, stir and simmer for a few minutes more.
Now you add the drained gram with the earlier mentioned coriander stalks, pour over the stock, stir once more and cover.

Up the heat and once it starts to boil turn down heat immediately and let this simmer for a little while, appr. 15-25 minutes (just keep tasting and testing!) until you are satisfied that the gram is cooked to your liking.

Check seasoning with pepper and salt.

Take off flame and after 2 minutes cool-down- time add yoghurt/curd and mix into the gram.
Cut sausages into half or smaller and lay on top of the cooked dish. Sprinkle with lots of coriander leaves.

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Bring to your table, serve and enjoy.
Carina

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Sunday Stew with Appam (and a little twist or two)

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Sunday Stew with Appam (and a little twist or two)

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I think that most South Indian people will agree with me, “Stew with Appam” is one of the most beloved breakfast dishes here.
Quick and easy to prepare and of course very light and nutritious.
Ostensibly an Anglo-Indian dish served every Sunday in the past by the Christian families (especially in close by Fort Cochin) for their Sunday breakfast, it has now of course found a place in most homes – including ours. So much so, that hardly a Sunday goes by when we do not serve this stew, either with Appam and/or plain bread.

So now I like to serve to you our very own version of this favourite Sunday breakfast:

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This will serve 4 and the ingredients mentioned are the once I use while preparing this dish. Of course you can add other vegetables, if you like, for example some Cauliflower, beans, and peas. We prefer this stew to be thin, just like broth with some vegetables, but again, you can thicken this dish if you want to.

a) 250 gr beef, cut into small cubes
1 x medium onion, roughly chopped
2 x green chillies, slit
Salt and pepper, as required
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b) 2 x large potatoes, peeled and cut into largish cubes
3 x large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally
1 x Knorr Vegetable stock cube
3 x green chillies, slit
1 inch piece ginger, julienned
Pepper and salt as required to your taste

c) ½ Tbsp Coconut oil
1 x bay leaf
4 x cloves
1 piece of cinnamon bark
3 x green cardamom pods
1 x star anise
Some curry leaves

d) 2 x onions, peeled and sliced
10 x Cashewnuts, soaked for a few minutes and then made into a paste

e) ¾ to 1 cup of thick coconut milk (you can use powder or from a tetra pack)

Whenever possible I suggest you boil the beef with the ingredients mentioned under A) the day before and keep in fridge.
On Sunday morning, quickly boil everything mentioned under B) and keep (with all the liquid of course)
Take your vessel, add oil, heat and then add everything under C), stir for 2 minutes on medium heat and then add your onions under D) and sauté until they become slightly golden (make sure they do not turn brown).
Add the Cashewnut paste, stir for 2 minutes and then follow with the pre-boiled beef (again with liquid).
After a further couple of minutes add your cooked vegetables including their liquid, and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.
Take off the flame; let it rest for a couple of more minutes and then mix in the thick coconut milk mentioned under E) – (if you leave it on the flame it most likely will curdle when you add the milk – so be careful!).
Check your seasoning once more and adjust. Bring to your table and serve with Appam and/or bread and a big sunny smile!!!
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Happy Sunday, dear Readers.
Carina

Kerala Style “Pachadi”

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( ….. and how to beat the heat!)

No doubt about it, summer is here; the days are still getting hotter and I am dreaming (yes, it has to be a dream for now!) of a dip into the clear cool waters of the Sea or if that’s not possible, at least into a swimming pool.

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And everywhere I go; people keep talking about the heat and how they long for June when the Monsoon is due to arrive here in our State, bringing the long-awaited rain and coolness.

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But to be more realistic for now I have to just be contend with a good working air conditioner (set to near ‘freezing’) hoping as usual that there will be not another powercut and a nice big bowl of delicious Sambar Cucumber (Vellarikka) Pachadi.

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What is this, you who never had this, might ask. To put it simply: lightly boiled yellow/green striped Cucumber mixed with tasty (sour) Yoghurt (Curd) and only a very few spices. And it is made literally in a jiffy – JS and I always have a jar of this ready in our fridge especially now during this hot season.
Pachadi is not only sooo very cooling, but healthy, too. I can easily give you a long list of health benefits using this vegetable, from keeping you obviously hydrated – after all a cucumber is 96 % water!

Cucumbers help to relieve stress, since they are extremely rich in Vitamins B and for Energy lavishes you with Vitamins A, B and C which give you energy and keep you looking radiant.

Of course for all of us with find we have those dreaded “bags-under- the-eyes” – from sitting much too long at the computer staring at our screen and thereby straining our eyes far too much, the age-old remedy of putting a slice of cool cucumber on your eyes whilst resting, really works!!!!

Cucumbers are a wonderful aid in weight loss – and don’t we love our healthy salads with plenty of this vegetable?

Cucumbers contain Erepsin, which is an enzyme that helps in protein digestion and also supplies your body with skin-friendly minerals like magnesium, potassium, silicon. This is maybe one of the reasons why Spa’s use plenty of cucumber based treatments.

The list is “endless” – it is even said, that to cope with the dreadful hangover the morning after it is advisable to eat a cucumber before going to bed!?
I suggest that you make double the amount of Pachadi since you will find that this dish is quite Moorish and you will want more and more.

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Follow my guiding steps – it’s easy:

1. Peel skin of a Vellarikka, cut in half lengthwise, discard seeds with the help of a small spoon and then cut into cubes. Wash and cook the cucumber with just a little water, salt and some curry leaves for appr. 10 minutes or until they are soft, but don’t overcook them, since a little ‘bite’ is just nice. Keep aside.

2. Now in your Mixy grind ½ cup of grated coconut, 3 green chillies, ½ tsp of mustard seeds and 4-5 peeled pearl onions (Ullis) to a fine paste using maybe a little bit of yoghurt (Curd) or water. Keep aside.

3. Take a Wok (or any other deep pan) and on low heat gently fry the coconut- etc. paste, for appr. 5 minutes, stirring all the time.

4. When done, remove from heat and let it cool down (I switch on my ceiling fan for this to speed things up).

5. Take 1.5 to 2 cups of Yoghurt (Curd), add to a bowl with ¾ cup of water and with a small whisk ‘beat’ the yoghurt until nice and smooth.

6. Now mix all his with your cooked cucumber and gently stir. Check on salt.

7. In a small pan heat not more than 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil, add ¾ tsp of mustard seeds and let them splutter (avoid your eyes – the seeds are like dangerous little ‘bullets’ and can hurt); 1/3 tsp of Fenugreek seeds and then add 2-3 red dried chillies (stalk removed and halved) and some curry leaves, stir only for a few seconds and finally pour all this over the Pachadi.

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That’s it, dear friends. I do so hope that you enjoy this as much as we do.

Carina

Speedy Mock Fish Biriyani

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Speedy Mock Fish Biriyani

Mock Biriyani! What is that, you may well ask. It is just what it says; a ‘Biriyani’ without all the many procedures involved in making “the real McCoy”; which by the way I do actually make on the odd occasion, but with mutton.
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So therefor let me say here right from the start this is NOT a proper Biriyani, but my own version of a ‘biriyani’ whenever one or the other family member asks for one and there is no time at all to go through the proper preparations.

This dish needs very few ingredients, only a tiny bit of preparation and little time in my (hot!) kitchen.
But the end result nevertheless is a tasty dish to be enjoyed by all.

This recipe is for 2 people with a good appetite or for 3 ‘on a diet’.

Ingredients
For marination, pref. 1-2 hours before cooking,
1 Tbsp of Ginger/Garlic paste
1 Tbsp of Chilli powder
1 generous pinch of Turmeric powder
1-2 tsp of lemon juice
Mix all of this together and then add
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¼ kg (or more!) of nice firm fish, (I used Red Snapper, filleted by the fishmonger in the picture) de-boned, cut into largish cubes and marinate for some time.
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½ hour before you start cooking, wash and soak 1 cup of Basmati rice and keep aside.
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Take a big wide pot and add 1 tsp (or maybe even 2) of vegetable oil, and on medium heat sauté 2 large onions, finely chopped (I just ‘blitz’ the peeled onions in my “Mixi” for just a second), until they turn a nice golden colour as well as a cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 5 peppercorns, 1 Staranis and 4 Cardamom. Stir and then layer the marinated fish gently (so the pieces don’t break) on this before adding the pre-soaked rice with the water and a dash of salt. Stir gently again.
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Cover and let this cook for 15-20 minutes, only then lift your lid and check that your rice is cooked. My own version only takes 15 minutes cooking time on medium heat.

Before bringing your Biriyani to your table, decorate with some previously well fried small onions (Ullis), some golden Raisins (Kismis) and chopped Coriander leafs.
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Serve with a nice refreshing cool raita and some pappadums and maybe a fish fry for extra luxury.
Note:
We do like spices in our family, but you may want to adjust to your very own taste.
We try to use oil very sparingly, especially ghee!
Instead of fish you can also use prawns; lobster etc., which all will taste delicious!
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I have also previously added a pinch of turmeric, for colour, to the soaking rice, but JS likes to ‘ring the changes’ and so sometimes I just leave the rice white.

To be honest, I have made this dish many times in the past, alternating between prawns and fish, whatever is readily available from the freezer at the time of need and nobody so far has found out my little ‘speedy Gonzales’ secret, yet!

So my friends, why not give it a try and maybe you like to let me know how you liked this dish.

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Guten Appetit…………
Carina