This week, I got home a book from the British Council Library. 365 Dish A day. A cookbook with mostly continental recipes. I plan to experiment with some of them. So Saturday evening, I wanted to try out "Balti Shrimp".
Hey, I don’t cook regularly. And I am not all that good. But most people fall for my persuasive charms. It’s hard to decline a meal when someone comes and tells you, "Why don’t you take care of some personal chores while I manage the kitchen tonight ? " I tell you — it’s an easy one to fall for. And my family, including my sis-in-law and her husband, did.
The fun part is that I did not prepare "Balti Shrimp". I never do what I am told. I have always been bad at following instructions. Took that as a starting point and improvised on the way. That’s what recipes are about — they are a starting point. Put in your own touch, do your own jig. Run to the beat of your own drummer. Listen to some great music. Keep your station clean. Enjoy the cooking.
For me, every cooking session is a lesson learnt. What I learnt today is interesting. For quite some time, there was a confusion in our household as to whether coriander and cilantro refer to "Dhania" (the suspected Hindi equivalent) and if they do, why are they differently called ? I found out today.
The Spanish for coriander is cilantro. North Americans use the word cilantro rather than coriander as their introduction to the ingredient came through Mexican cooking.
I have put down the modified recipe, kind of "GPL"-ed if you will, take it and do it your own way. Don’t hesitate to experiment. After all, not many people can refuse the "Let me cook tonight" trap.
Here’s the recipe:
1 kg medium shrimp – shelled and de-veined
4 green chillies
4 tbsp cilantro leaves
4 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt to taste
250 g spaghetti
2 tsp of oil (preferably olive) for the spaghetti
Dice the chillies and chop the onions coarsely. Introduce the following into a food processor: chillies, cilantro leaves, tomato puree, onions, lemon juice, chilli powder, turmeric, ginger paste and a pinch of salt. Blend till you get a smooth paste greenish in color. If its not green enough, add a sprig of cilantro leaves and blend a bit more. The cilantro is the dominating taste in this meal, so you should get that. Don’t, however, overdo this. This is not "palag jhinga pasta". Please.
Heat a thick-bottom skillet (kadai) and grease well with the oil. Pour the paste in it and cook until the excess water dries. It should have a soft gooey texture. (Yuck .. who ever uses that word in a recipe !).
Add the shrimp and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring twice a minute or so. The paste should get soaked into the shrimp but you will have to be a bit tender since shrimp is soft.
Add to the skillet a mixture of 1/2 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup water.
Let it simmer. Move on to the spaghetti.
Preparing spaghetti is easy. Cut and paste this paragraph on your kitchen wall. Or tattoo it on your arm.
In a broad-base and deep pan, pour enough water to drown the spaghetti well. Don’t worry, too much water will not spoil it, but just burn some extra fuel. Add 2 tsp of oil. (I prefer olive). Add 1/2 tsp salt. Bring the water to a boil. Add the slender spaghetti sticks. Don’t you break them. Let them stand like thin poles against the side of the pan and in a minute you will see them fall into the pan as soon the bottom part of the sticks start to boil and get soft. Cook for about 8-10 minutes till it is ‘al dente’. Drain the water, preferably using a strainer. Contrary to what is printed on pasta packets (in India), do not rinse with cold water. It chills the pasta and removes the coat of starch which hold the sauce that is put on the pasta.
Heat the serving plates in a microwave. Put a serving of spaghetti on the plate and pour the shrimp cilantro on top of it. Don’t toss. Let the juice seep in.