Sunday 19 April 2020

One of the few regrets in my life is that I never had the opportunity to cook with my grandparents. My paternal grandfather passed away before I was born. My paternal grandmother was in the USA for a lot of my life, and though she is still alive today, she is not good shape right now, being all of a 105 years. Both my maternal grandparents were alive for a long time, but it was mostly in my teens and early twenties, when I was naive enough to believe that they would live forever. Or at least I would get to see them often enough, that I could get recipes and instructions from them, and cook with them. But this was the arrogance of youth, to think that they would wait forever for me. 

My grandfather died when I was in the UK, in the first three months. My grandmother survived a lot longer, and I was lucky enough to talk to her and get some of her recipes over the phone and through my mother and aunts. She got too old and too sick very soon after though, and I never really got to cook with her. When I went searching for her 'samadde', her hand carved wooden spice box, it had already been given away. I was still lucky enough to have a little of her jewellery, but let's face it, no one really wears that much jewellery here in Canada. They're still my heirlooms though, so I keep them, in the hope of passing them on my daughter sometime. 

I am luckier than most though, because after all said and done, I do have some recipes and a lot of memories of my folks' cooking, and those are memories I treasure. Whether it is making boti, or climbing mango trees, or spending summers at my grandparents' house, they are there, and they will be there with me.

The reason I went down memory lane with my grandparents though, is that my recipe today is inspired by another grandmother, my friend Rohan's Nana Betty. This is her, in the below photograph.

Nana Betty, photo courtesy Rohan Gonsalves

Rohan, an old school and college friend of mine, is a lucky man. He has been quarantining with his grandmother in Mangalore, and one of the things he started doing was posting photo recipes of his grandmother cooking. You can imagine that went down rather well with the grandparent-parched generation all over the world. Not just mine, but strangely, also the generation before and after mine. The request for recipes became so numerous, that Rohan had to actually create a Facebook page for Nana's Recipes (you have to be a Facebook member to access, sorry), where he posts picture journeys of the recipe with his grandmother, and collection of aunts and uncles. 

I call Rohan a lucky man, because, had I had the opportunity, this is exactly what I should have done with my own grandparents. Granted, recording recipes is very different today, with our camera phones, and social media, as opposed to frantically writing everything down as fast as the spices would go in. But even then, what he has with his nana, is a dream a lot of us have had, I would imagine. To cook with our parents, or aunties, and relatives, it is a dream that is not always possible in today's world where a lot of us are away from our families and building our own families. It is a familiar pain, but then Nana Betty (or rather, Rohan) would post a new recipe, and for a while Nana Betty stands in for our own grandparents and everything is okay for a while. And in today's world, we need it.

This recipe is a result of inspiration from Nana's Clam Sukka, or spicy clams with coconut. I wasn't able to go out for clams, but I did have a bag of raw prawns that were perfect for this version of prawn sukka. These prawns can be served as a side dish with rice and vegetables, or as a finger food with toothpicks stuck in them. Either way, they are delicious, just as I imagine Nana's clams were.


250g shelled prawns
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon neutral oil (I use grapeseed) 
1 small onion, finely diced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon (or to taste) bafat spice mix
Salt to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

For the seasoning: 

1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 sprig (5 - 6) curry leaves
1 clove of garlic, bruised, but left whole


Place the shelled prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the turmeric. Keep aside.

In a shallow pan, over a medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions. When the onions are golden around the edges, about 5 minutes, add the ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute, then add the tomatoes and the bafat spice mix.

Cook this mixture for about 5 - 7 minutes, until the raw smell of spices disappears. Add the prawns to the pan, and cook together for about 5 minutes, until the prawns have cooked through.

Season with salt to taste, then stir in the dessicated coconut. Taste and adjust seasoning.

In a small pan, heat the tablespoon of oil, then add the curry leaves and garlic. Sizzle everything together for a minute, then pour the fragrant oil and seasonings into the cooked prawns, and stir in.


  1. Wow Michelle...can't wait to try this. Which onions do you use. The white or the purplish red ones. I used the latter and they seem to have a sweet effect unlike the onions back home

  2. That sounds so good and I couldn't agree more that it must be a privilege and a joy to cook with family in that way. (Although I can't remember my grandmother ever going near a kitchen). It's good to see that your blogging break is over - I've missed the inspiration.

  3. What a wonderful surprise! For years your blog was my go to place for Indian recipes. How disappointed I was when I read you were putting it on hold indefinitely... Came back today to check up on a recipe (your vindaloo) and saw there were new posts! Excited like a kid.
    Tim (Belgian follower)


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