The one word that’s almost synonymous with a working mum is ‘balance’. How do you balance all the ten million things that we all do, even with the support of your partner? Just thinking about all the things I have to do every day and every week makes my head spin sometimes. Child, husband, household, work, school, shopping, appointments, birthdays, more shopping, more child, more work, cleaning, cooking, laundry... it’s enough to just make you want to hide yourself under a duvet and just wish you were on a warm tropical island, lounging on a beach with a long tall cocktail, and... what the heck, a few cabana boys at your beck and call.
But since that’s not happening any time soon, I just take the example of my mum instead. I talk about my mum many a time on this site, because for me, my mum was the epitome of balance. I still have no idea how she managed to keep all those balls in the air, and never dropped a single one. She’s now almost sixty two, and she’s still balancing out her life and all her commitments with a grace that I certainly do not possess by any means!
There was one thing my mum never ever missed, though. And that was dinner. Now dinner for us, growing up in India, was very different to how we have dinner here. For one, we rarely, actually almost never, sat around a table and had dinner as a family, as we would do here. Instead, once we came back from school, we would make ourselves tea with a substantial snack, and mum would start dinner when she got back from work. She had a repertoire of quick and easy dishes that she could throw together in a few minutes, and dinner was then on the table. We then wandered over to the table and helped ourselves to rice and whatever dish mum made and usually with a side of a simple spicy pickle or two.
So, of course, when I moved to England and then subsequently to Canada, I took with me a whole bunch of recipes from mum, particularly the easy ones, the ones that I could throw together in minutes.
This particular recipe is for a prawn curry that we always had growing up. As a child, I was lucky enough to grow up by the coast. The west coast of India is the coast of the Arabian sea, and we had our pick of fresh seafood, most of which was caught on the day. A little known fact about seafood is that its seasonal as well. The kind of fish that one can get on the coast, for example, depends on many factors, including the kind of spawning happening, and even based on whether there is a waxing or waning moon.
River fish is also caught, but the majority of seafood we bought was from the sea. My dad would ride down to the bunder (docks) and bargain hard for the freshest of fish, prawns, squid or crabs. He would then triumphantly return with his bounty, and we would have fresh seafood for dinner that evening. There was no pre-packaged, cleaned or sanitised fish available. So even as kids, we were experts in cleaning and gutting a fish (a skill I have carefully hidden from the husband, hehe, I don't want him to expect me to clean the fish he catches!) We would also devein and clean prawns, and many a weekend afternoon, this was our chore, as mum cleaned and froze fish to use during the week.
I am lucky I don't have to do all this from-scratch preparation anymore, and frozen raw prawns from the supermarket are a convenience I have gotten used to very quickly. But I still relish the taste of seafood, particularly one in a spicy-tangy-hot curry, as we used to have it. The flavours in this dish are very much from the south coast of India. I like to serve this dish fairly dry, with a lemon half to squeeze over it. But if you fancy a sauce, then add a little hot stock or water to make a curry sauce. This dish is best served with plain, steamed rice, but you can also try it with a roti or naan for a North Indian-Coastal Indian fusion meal. Like I mentioned in the beginning of the post, this dish is very spicy. If you want to mellow the spice, don't use the green chilly and reduce the bafat spice mix to 1 teaspoon.
You can find the recipe for bafat powder or spice mix here. I'll add a bit more of an introduction to it soon, but essentially it’s a traditional Mangalorean/ Goan spice mix, that we use for practically everything. It’s rare to make your own, but when you live far away you don't really have an option do you? I came up with my recipe by smell and taste, like I always so, so it’s an interpretative recipe, and can be tweaked to suit your taste as well. I hope you enjoy this recipe. For me, its a taste of an idyllic childhood that I always cherish. I may not have found the balance my mum is famous for, but her quick and easy dinner recipes mellow that pain a wee bit (for which my husband certainly is always grateful, otherwise he’d be eating cheese on toast for the rest of his life)
Prawns and marinade:
400g prawns, tail on, if possible
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp oil or ghee
Rest of the dish:
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 sprig of curry leaves (around 5 - 7 leaves)
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated to a paste
1 green chilly, chopped fine
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp bafat powder, or spice mix
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves to garnish
Clean and devein the prawns, and peel, leaving the tail on. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and turmeric. Rub this marinade into the prawns and marinate for about 4 hours. Once the prawns are marinated, drain them well, reserving any drained liquid.
Heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil in a heavy pan on a high heat, and toss in the prawns. Quickly stir fry until they are just opaque. Take off heat, and keep aside.
Make the sauce: Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee in a pan. Add the curry leaves and saute for 30 seconds.
Add the diced onion, and fry for about 5 - 7 minutes, until the onion is soft and just beginning to colour. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the onion, and saute for another minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes, bafat powder, garam masala and turmeric, and fry together for about 5 - 10 minutes, until the masala starts to come together in a gooey mass.
Add the reserved drained liquid from the prawns and the red wine vinegar. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Season to taste with the salt.
Fold in the fried prawns, and take off the heat.
Let the prawn roast cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with the chopped cilantro.
This dish is very spicy, but it will mellow a little if you leave it in the fridge overnight. This helps the prawns absorb the flavour. Reheat very quickly, as you don't want to overcook the prawns.