Pickled Prawn in December

Many many years ago my father once presented my mother with a Parsi cook book that over time it has not only become tattered and torn but has dwindled to just a fifth of its size, the rest having literally been blown away. Now anyone who knows his onions will vouch for the uniqueness of Parsi food. Till recently , Parsi food was only available at Parsi homes, RTI outlets and Parsi weddings and Naojotes.  Of course it was also available at the Victory Cafe which old Bombay wallahs may remember as a stall run by Parsi women with food brought in from their kitchens. The money from the proceeds of the sale was put towards the war effort hence the name Victory Cafe. This little eatery situated at the Apollo Bunder pier near the current Atomic Energy Office was famous for its Dhansak Rice, Lace cutlets and Patra ni Macchi. I particularly have fond memories of the place as my dad took me there for the one month I was recuperating from an appendectomy and I loved leaving school in the middle of the day for a special treat. It was fun eating piping hot food while the rain sprayed on your face.

Those were the days when we were hardly ever invited to eat at friends’ homes those days and eating out was even more rare (especially at Parsi restaurants) so the only option we had was to get a Parsi cook book which my father promptly did.  That proved to be the best buy ever for my mother followed it faithfully and replicated all those yummy dishes at home, chief among them being the prawn pickle till it finally became part of our family kitchen.

So when I was entertaining around 40 people last week, I decided to make some Prawn Pickle Parsi Style simply because it could be made ahead of time and that would leave me with one less dish to make on the day.  I also thought that if there was any pickle remaining, I could easily keep it in the fridge to eat on another day.

Post monsoons the fishing trawlers are active once more but I was surprised when the fisherwoman at the fish market told me that the seas are too cold for the fish and the best time to really eat fish is in February-March when the waters are warmer but I managed to get fish from Mumbai Fish which I discovered thanks to my friend V (an enthusiastic pescatarian) who swears by its fresh catch. I called them the day before I wanted to make the pickle for unlike Pesca Fresh which has same day delivery, Mumbai Fish needs a 24 hour advance notice. But like Pesca, the delivery was prompt and I got my 1000 g of peeled and deveined prawns.

 

Here’s what I did

1. Washed and patted dry the prawn. Sprinkled with salt and left aside on a duster to soak up any water

2. Soaked 10 red chillies in 1/2 cup vinegar ( to soften) and made a masala paste with 2 tspns cumin seed, 1/2 tspn turmeric, garlic cloves( about half an onion) and the soaked red chillies.

3. I then heated 3 tablespoons of oil in a kadahi and fried the prawns till pink. I removed them from the kadahi and kept them aside.

4. I then sauted the masala paste in oil adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar till all the vinegar was used up and the oil separated from the paste.

5. I added the fried prawn and stirred into the masala paste. I then allowed the pickle to simmer so that the spices penetrated the prawn.

Parsi Prawn pickle is easy enough to make and finishes even faster. For my guest list of 25 non vegetarians I used 1000 kg de veined and cleaned prawn.

And I’m pleased to say that despite the meat and the chicken there was not a prawn left that night!

Easy peasy and really cheesy conchiglie

With a title like this, you probably wonder what kind of a dish this is. Well, it’s a really easy pasta which looks great, tastes better and is a breeze to make and perfect to make when you are entertaining.

The skill in cooking while entertaining guests is to manage both the conversation and the cooking without conducting the party in your kitchen. The internet is a great cookery resource with recipes available for almost every ingredient you can ask for and in any culinary style . While searching for a decent pasta to go with my largely fishy meal, I found this recipe which I had to majorly tweak only because I found that I didn’t have the main ingredient which was Zucchini. But ever the girl guide, I am never one to despair so went ahead with my plan of making pasta using shell pasta or conchiglie.

Pasta is always a hot favourite and there are very few who dislike it. If you add cheese to this, there is no way it can fail to please.

So what you will need to replicate this is

  • 2 cups of uncooked shell pasta or conchiglie.
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano (I used a packet of the oregano mix that comes with home delivered pizza)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 200 g fresh cream ( I used Amul)
  • 1 tub cheese spread ( I used Amul)

Here’s what I did:

1. I brought some water to boil in a large pot. When the water came to the boil, I added some salt and the pasta and stirred it from time to time t prevent it from sticking. I cooked it for more than 11 mintues because frankly, I don’t like the pasta al dente but prefer it to be slightly softer. I drained off the water and left the pasta covered till later.

2. In a large frying pan, I heated the olive oil and then added the garlic and browned it. I then added the onion and cooked it till the onions became soft. To this I then added the red bell pepper, some salt and dried oregano. I covered it , lowered the heat and allowed it to cook a bit.

3. At this point I stopped cooking and left the dish half cooked till it was dinner time.

4. Just before calling the guests to the table, I heated up the red peppers and garlic , added the cooked conchiglie and gave it a good stir before adding the chopped basil leaves.

5. I then poured in the cream and the cheese spread and stirred it thoroughly making sure that every pasta shell was coated with this creamy cheesy mixture.

6. I poured it onto a flattish dish and served it with hot garlic bread.

 

Try it – it’s yum a deliciously creamy cheese sauce, crunch red peppers that add a dash of colour, the sharpness of sweet basil and the flavour of oregano….. Shell pasta doesn’t taste any different from any other pasta but the shape makes it easy for the sauce to cling on to….

 

A 10 Minute Prawn Pickle

The fish market today was flooded with fish and I bought some prawn to make into a pickle. Here’s how to do it. Go for the smaller prawn as they absorb the flavours
You will need
1/2 cup oil ( I used Canola since it is supposed to be low on  fat and high on health)
300 g shelled and deveined prawn ( small to medium size taste best)
4 red kashmiri chilli
10 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of vinegar
1 heaped tspn cumin seed
1/4 tspn turmeric
salt to taste
dash of sugar to finish off
Here’s what you do
1. Wash the prawns and pat dry on a napkin. Sprinkle salt and let it stand for a while.
2. Soak the red chilli in the vinegar for 1-2 minutes before grinding it into a paste with the garlic and cumin seed.
2. Heat the oil in a karahi and quickly fry the prawn till they curl up and turn pink. Drain and set aside.
3. Add turmeric to the oil and then the ground masala paste. Stir for a bit till the vinegar evaporates and the oil separates from the paste.
4. Added the fried prawn and allow to simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the oil floats on top.
6. Add a dash of sugar
5. Allow to cool uncovered before storing.
This pickle keeps only for about 15 days in the refrigerator and is great to have around for a quick snack with bread or chapati.
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