Much as I love turkey and the crunchy goose-fat potatoes, pigs in blankets and bread sauce it brings with it, the incurable glutton in me can't help wondering, even as I order the bird, what they're eating in places where Christmas doesn't always mean a big roast. This menu, from the tropical beaches of Goa on India's south-west coast, a former Portuguese colony with a large Catholic population, should bring some much-needed warmth to your festive celebrations, whether you have it on the big day, or serve it on Christmas or New Year's Eve instead. Best of all, it can all be made in advance. Perfect for stress-free entertaining, leaving you more time to enjoy yourself – and perhaps a glass of wine or two as well. It is Christmas after all.
Chilli prawn puffs with green coconut relish
These spicy little puffs are a popular snack in Goa, often in the form of small pies – my more delicate triangles make a great starter or canape, but feel free to use a fairy cake tin if you prefer. Like the relish, they can be made ahead and then glazed and baked just before serving. (Those short of time should know they're also pretty good with mango chutney, or a quick dip of yoghurt mixed with a pinch of salt and some more chopped coriander. )
- 2 tbsp neutral or coconut oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
- 1 small green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 225g raw peeled prawns, defrosted if necessary and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 400g puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk or water
- For the relish (optional)
- 80g unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 100g fresh coriander
- 1-2 small green chillis, deseeded
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Juice of 3 limes
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the onion until soft, then stir in the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a minute more. Add the dry spices and salt and cook for another minute or so.
Turn up the heat slightly and add the prawns. Fry, stirring to break up any clumps, until the mixture seems fairly dry, then take off the heat and stir in the chopped coriander. Set aside to cool completely.
Heat the oven, and a lightly greased baking tray, to 200C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 2-3mm thick, then cut into 6 horizontal strips. Cut each in half.
Brush round the edge of one of the rectangles with egg wash, and then put a teaspoonful of cold filling just off centre about 1 cm from the bottom end. Bring the opposite bottom corner over the top to enclose the filling in a small triangle, then fold that triangle across to the opposite side of the pastry, and continue until all the pastry is used up, pressing the edges together to seal, and trimming off any excess. Repeat with the others.
Put on the baking sheet, paint with egg wash, and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Meanwhile, whizz the relish ingredients together with about 150ml water until you have a chunky paste, adjusting the seasoning to taste. Serve alongside the puffs.
If you have already opened some fizz, we suggest sticking with it, bubbles cope remarkably well with a little spice. Don't forget, sherry is often a good bet with Asian-style cooking too, a cool, crisp fino would work well. Finally, gewurztraminer, the spice grape par excellence would be wonderful too.
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