The bountiful and colourful ingredients seen in the Canadian comedy Cooking With Stella is bound to inspire home cooks to try their hand at preparing Indian dishes.
Directed by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Dilip Mehta, Cooking With Stella stars Seema Biswas as a wily cook who charms and cheats the Canadian diplomat family for whom she works.
Lisa Ray plays the career-driven diplomat Maya, while Don McKellar plays stay-at-home dad Michael, a frustrated chef who coaxes Stella into teaching him Indian cuisine.
Mehta promises that anyone who sees the film will emerge with their mouths watering. “Whether you love it or not, that’s really up to you . . . but what I will grant to anybody and I will guarantee is by the end of the film they’ll be really hungry,” he says.
Here’s a recipe from the film.
Kerala Shrimp Curry
This is one of Stella’s signature dishes, tart with tamarind and lush with coconut milk. Tamarind pulp and fresh or frozen curry leaves can be found in South Asian grocery stores.
500 g (1 lb) frozen, cleaned shrimp or 750 g (1 1/2 lb) fresh medium shrimp
2 ml (1/2 tsp) turmeric
Large pinch dried red chile powder or cayenne
Generous pinch salt
30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lime juice
15 ml (1 tbsp) tamarind pulp
Scant 125 ml (1/2 cup) boiling water
45 ml (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5 ml (1 tsp) brown mustard seed
2 ml (1/2 tsp) fenugreek seed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) minced garlic (approx)
15 ml (1 tbsp) minced ginger
2 green cayenne chiles, seeded and minced
16 to 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
2 ml (1/2 tsp) turmeric
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground coriander
2 ml (1/2 tsp) Indian dried red chile powder or cayenne
250 ml (1 cup) canned coconut milk
5 ml (1 tsp) salt, or to taste
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish
Rinse shrimp. Place in a medium bowl, add turmeric, chile powder, salt and lime juice; stir well and set aside.
Meanwhile, chop tamarind pulp coarsely and place in a bowl. Pour in boiling water and mash tamarind a little with a fork. Set aside to soak for about 10 minutes.
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan or a wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until a pale golden colour, 8 to 10 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add mustard seeds (they may pop or sputter) and cook for 30 seconds. Add fenugreek seeds and tomatoes and stir well. Add garlic, ginger, green chiles, curry leaves, turmeric, coriander and red chile powder. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes, then add coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
strain tamarind mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl: Using a wooden spoon, press tamarind pulp against mesh of sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Set aside liquid and discard pulp.
Stir 45 ml (3 tbsp) of the tamarind liquid into simmering curry. Taste, and then adjust the balance of flavours if you wish by adding more tamarind liquid and/or salt.
Shortly before you wish to serve, add shrimp and any remaining marinade to curry and cook until shrimp has just changed colour, about 3 minutes.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with plain rice and lime wedges.