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!

Bottle Gourd – easy on the stomach and easy to make

One day my father was tending to his garden when the lady next door came up to him and said

” You know that thing of yours in the front is growing bigger and bigger and hanging into my compound.  Can you please do something about it?”

If you had heard it in the original accented Hindi which went something like this –

 Jara deko to – tumara aage ka bada bada mere garden ke andar aa raha hai.  kucch to karo.

you would have probably reacted in much the same way as my father – He told my mother to attend to the matter as he didn’t know what the lady meant by her complaint!

The good neighbour was complaining about the large sized bottle gourd that was hanging over her compound wall instead of staying on my father’s side !

The Bottle Gourd or Lauki , Ghiya or Doodhi  as it is commonly known is a long, melon like vegetable , light green on the outside and milky white inside and is popularly used in most Indian cuisines. Apparently it was grown in Africa mainly to be used as a water container (when dry it becomes the perfect bottle)

Many years ago when we had a kitchen garden, my father planted some bottle gourd ( lauki) seedlings on Akshay Tritiya or the day when the earth is closest to the sun. This is supposed to be the hottest day of the year but anything that is started on that day, always lands up being extremely successful. Therefore, apart from being a good day to get married or start a business, it is also the day when farmers plant their seeds for their monsoon crop. At least this is what I was given to understand by the fact that the bottle gourds we got that year were literally 5 feet long! And not only were they long, they were healthy and big too.

The vegetable is said to have medicinal properties and one of my friends used to have in on her table for every meal  at her husband’s insistence. I myself am not too fond of this vegetable but today I had an urge to have it so I decided to make some myself.

To make this you will need

  • 2 cup peeled and diced bottle gourd
  • 1 tspn clarified butter or ghee
  • 1/4 tspn cumin seed or zeera
  • 2 – 3 curry leaves
  • a pinch of asoefetida or hing
  • a pinch of turmeric powder
  • 4 cashews soaked in water and split into two
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tbspn freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander to garnish ( optional)

Here’s what I did.

I heated the ghee in a pan and then added the cumin seeds. After they sputtered I added the curry leaves, the asoefetida,the turmeric and the chopped vegetable. I then added the soaked cashews, chopped chilli and stirred on high flame before adding the coconut, the milk and lowering the flame. I covered the vegetable with a lid on which I put water so that the vegetable would get the heat from the top as well. When the water from the top evaporated, I knew that the vegetable was done.

I allowed the rest of the milk to dry up so that there was just enough to keep it moist and more and had this with a hot phulka.

Try it! It’s light on the digestion and great on taste with a mild green chilli adding to  the delicate flavour of curry leaves, turmeric and cumin.


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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