I'm the first to admit that it is hard to find an English main course recipe that doesn't start with "take half a pound of lard..." Nothing wrong with that of course, but when the sun is still lovely and warm, we all crave lighter fare, even this true-blue Brit!
So let's turn to the exotic East, the lazy days of the Raj and a lovely Goan-inspired shrimp dish with coconut and cream. I know I'm taking a bit of liberty but then, is not Indian food a cornerstone of English cuisine? In fact, in a recent poll taken in Britain, the second favorite dish nationwide turned out to be chicken tikka! (No prizes if you guess what the number one fave was!*)
I've adapted this recipe over time. It began life as a mussel starter but I've switched in shrimp, added cream or yogurt, toned down the heat for the Americans in my midst, and I now serve it up over a bed of salad as opposed to rice. By increasing the portions I've turned this recipe into a delightfully light supper dish.
Here's what you will need
A pound and half of large shrimp. I use fresh-frozen, but use whatever looks good in the market. Do use large or extra large shrimp, smaller prawns tend to disappear.
You'll also require a "finger" of ginger; use powder if you must, but fresh is so much better. A few cloves of garlic and cup of grated coconut, dried or fresh but unsweetened. One small chili pepper chopped up, or use a few dried pepper flakes. If using fresh chili, do taste a smidge beforehand. You want the dish to have a little kick, but not too much. Chop up half a bunch of green onions. Have a wedge of butter on hand or a little pot of ghee if you're feeling exotic. You'll also need a quarter cup of lemon juice, but do peel the rind from said lemon, chop it up, and keep it to one side.
Now bring out the big guns: a cup of cream, sour cream, or yogurt or a combination of all three. I'm trying to watch my weight so I use low fat yogurt. Mind you, the cream adds a wonderful richness, so it's your choice. You can add a half teaspoon of salt, but it really isn't necessary Last but not least, you'll need a teaspoon of turmeric and coriander. I usually add a few cardamom pods in the final dish to torment the wife.... This of course, is also an optional addition. If you cannot find any of these spices at your local Indian shop, use the light-colored curry powder found in regular grocery stores.
You will also need a bunch of coriander or cilantro, chop half the leaves for the sauce, retain the uncut leaves for the salad. Did I mention salad?
Let's address the salad
This is a simple green affair, you need enough leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make sure the salad is torn into small pieces, Use a spring mix type; rocket, dandelion, watercress, or what have you. Whatever you use, do add small shavings of green olives and grated flecks of lemon peel and mix in the whole leaves of coriander you cleverly kept to one side. Make a one-to-one vinaigrette using lemon juice and olive oil. Toss at the last minute then divide, forming beds of salad on the four plates.
Now let's get to the main attraction, which can easily be prepped in advance of your dinner party. Drinks at six on the patio...we eat in five? No probs!
First peel, de-vein, and sauté the shrimp. Thirty seconds a side. No more. Use butter, oil, or ghee if you want! You just want the little chaps pink on both sides. Add lemon juice to the pan and remove the happily sizzling shrimp to a side dish. They will finish cooking off heat. Prior to service, you pop them into the sauce to warm them up. And that's all. The key thing is not to overcook the shrimp, which can be made ahead and rest in the fridge until you are ready to make the sauce...
If you have the time, you can make a little stock using the shrimp shells. This will add a very nice flavor enhancement to the sauce but it's not essential.
In a mini prep gadget, put in the finger of ginger, the garlic cloves and the green bits from your spring onions. Add half a cup of water. Whir up this mixture.
In the unwashed sauté pan in which you part-cooked the shrimp, soften the remaining chopped onion bits in a pat of butter (or oil or ghee) for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic-ginger mixture, stir fry for half a minute before adding the chili, turmeric and cumin, along with the coconut. Now add the shrimp stock you so cleverly made (or a quarter cup of water) to the sauce and cook over a low heat for a few minutes. Take sauce off the heat and pour in the yogurt, cream, or what have you. Put back on low heat for a minute. When everything is nicely incorporated and the sauce is just coating the back of a spoon, pile in the part cooked shrimp and mix into the sauce for another minute. If the sauce is too thick add a few tablespoons of water, or cream --you naughty thing, you! Then turn off the heat.
Now toss your salad in a simple lemony vinaigrette. Plate up the salad forming beds. Top with shrimp and curry sauce. Serve with nan or pita bread, or nothing at all. Oh, nearly forgot. Once plated, sprinkle the chopped coriander over the shrimp.
So there we are! An Englishman's Goan-style curry dish to beat the last of the summer heat, a little spicy but very fresh tasting, light, and delicious. Do try it, I know you'll like this one!
*Yes, you guessed it --fish and chips!