Thursday, 25 October 2012

Butter Shrimp (as opposed to butter chicken)

Butter Shrimp (as opposed to butter chicken)

Another Wednesday night, and it was high time to make something delectable for Beautiful Granddaughter before her dance class.  She’s had to rely on grandpa making her hot dogs and the like, because of my new vegan lifestyle, but last night I thought enough was enough.  Vegan, shmegan, I said to myself and got out the ghee, cream and shrimp.
Children don’t have as many diet restrictions as adults do when it comes to butterfat, so I went all out.  The secret is that I ate very little of this dish, although I can’t say the same for the old grandpa.  He gets this kind of meal very rarely now.  Luckily he’s mostly content to eat my vegetarian fare, but of course Beautiful Granddaughter balks at vegetables.  Luckily the veg are well hidden in this recipe because they are puréed early on, so she doesn’t have a clue how nutritious this really is.  For the pre-purée stage, you can chop roughly.

½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon coriander seed
¼ teaspoon black cumin seed
¼ fenugreek seed
2 black cardamoms, bashed
2 green cardamoms, bashed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
3 cloves
1 flake mace
1 large cinnamon or cassia stick

½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon hot paprika powder
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
8 curry leaves
2 bay laurel leaves
½ teaspoon dark mustard seed
½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 small red onion, chopped
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 mild chillies (or hotter, to taste)
1 generous tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
(possibly about a half cup water)

enough cleaned shrimp to serve four people
½ bunch washed cilantro
¼ cup cream (or more, to taste)

1 finely chopped fresh hot chilli

Gently dry roast the whole spices in a non-stick pan large enough to make this dish.  When they start to smoke and get fragrant, use a brush to slide them into a spice grinder, but leave the cinnamon stick in the pan.  Add the turmeric and paprika to the grinder, and blend all the spices to a powder.  Set aside.

Add the ghee to the pan with the cinnamon, and put the heat on high.  Add a few mustard seeds, and when they crackle, add the rest, along with the bay leaves, curry leaves, and cumin seed.  Stir, and quickly add the onion and ginger.  Turn the heat to medium and cook till the onion is translucent and becoming golden.  Add the garlic and chillies, and cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the ground spices, and continue cooking for another five minutes.  Add the tomatoes, sweet pepper and pomegranate molasses, cover the pot and let cook.  If the tomatoes are juicy enough, they will cook down, but you may need to add a little water.  Resist adding water for as long as possible, because these items should caramelise a bit.  In about fifteen minutes, the peppers and tomatoes will be soft.  (By this stage, I have put on rice and it is getting close to being done.)
If you have an immersion blender, you can stick it right in the pot, if the mixture is deep enough to cover the vents on the blender.  If not, you’ll have the mix splattering up onto your cashmere sweater, as I did.  Sigh… I flung the works into the deep container for the immersion blender, which kept more splatters from burning and staining me.  Once the sauce is puréed, pour it back into the pot and turn the burner to medium high.

Add the shrimp.  At this point think like a helicopter, and hover.  You need to closely guard these babies to make sure they don’t overcook. 
Shrimp are very expensive here on the Canadian prairie, so I keep frozen on hand.  They need watching just as much as the fresh.  Once the shrimp are almost cooked through, use scissors to chop the cilantro, stems and all, right over the pot.  Stir, add the cream, and let warm through.  I served this with basmati rice, but BG wished there were chapatis as well.  (There is no way I have time to make chapatis on these busy dance lesson nights, but I regret not buying a package of lacha parathas I saw in the frozen section of a certain giant grocery store.)

Regardless, this is a quick and nutritious meal, and it’s mighty tasty.  Because BG doesn’t like it when I add “dynamite” to the food (read extra hot chillies), I  garnished the adults’ plates with finely chopped hot chillies.  
By the way, our countdown has begun.  We leave for India in less than six weeks!  

We’ll spend three weeks in Goa visiting with the in-laws, and we’ll be in Bombay for New Year’s Eve.  

We are looking so forward to escaping our snow and lolling about in the warmth, with BG being held in the arms of the other grandma! For that grandma, BG will eat her vegetables, I hope…

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