Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Monday, 6 April 2009

My experiments with food: Steamed prawns with mustard

I had never imagined that finding as simple a thing as ready made mustard paste would be so hard in Pune. I am partial to steamed dishes with a hint (or more) of mustard in them. That goes for all varieties of food, fish, chicken, egg, etc, with the absolute favourite being steamed Hilsa. But that is probably boringly predictable in a Bong. It is no wonder then that I began searching high and low for mustard paste as soon as I set up my own kitchen (buying a mixer just to grind mustard was never an option). But, I had not contended with the utter lack of enthusiasm of Puneites for ready made mustard paste. Every shop here stores either whole mustard or split mustard. Split mustard or dal mustard as it is called here is mustard seed split in half. I have not been able to figure out what earthly use can split mustard have for anyone. I mean, either you use whole mustard seed in your preparation or grind it into paste, so why split it? Anyways, fed up of my incessant grumblings about mustard my mother took pity on me and sent me the paste from Delhi by courier. I could guess how fed up she had become only when I found that the cost of courier was seven times the cost of the paste.

Anyhow, now that I finally had my precious paste, I had to decide what to do with it. I decided to cook something which I had never tried before - prawns. The trouble with prawns is that they are so hard to clean and devein. That problem resolved itself when I found ready-to-cook cleaned and de-veined prawns as a super mart. And so the stage was set for my next adventure in the kitchen.

Recipe: Steamed prawns with mustard

Ingredients(serves 3):
  1. Medium prawns - 250 gms (cleaned and deveined)
  2. Mustard paste - 2 tb spoon
  3. Mustard oil - 3-4 tb spoon
  4. Onion - 100 gms (finely chopped or paste)
  5. Garlic - 5-6 cloves (finely chopped or paste)
  6. Green chillies - 3-4 (finely chopped)
  7. Tomato - 1 (finely chopped)
  8. Turmeric - 1/4 tb spoon
  9. Salt - to taste

  1. I don't like adding the residue or the fibrous part of mustard paste to the preparation as it is this part that is hard to digest. So at the outset, I soak the paste in half a cup of water. This way the fibrous particles sink to the bottom and the milk can be drained from the top.
  2. Mix onion, garlic and green chili.
  3. Add a little turmeric and salt to the prawns and mix.
  4. Heat oil and the onion mix to it.
  5. Stir for some time, till onion turns golden.
  6. Add tomato and fry till they release water.
  7. Add prawns and let the mix fry on low heat till the prawns lose their pinkish colour.
  8. Add the milk of the mustard, add salt and remaining turmeric.
  9. Cover the kadhai till the gravy begins to boil. Then remove from fire.

It is important to keep in mind that prawns should not be deep fried as they become tough and difficult to chew if heated for too long.

About prawns
The terms 'prawn' and 'shrimp' are used interchangeably with 'prawn' being more common in UK, India and 'shrimp' being used exclusively in the US. The etymology of the word 'prawn' is obscure. In Middle English, the word 'prawn' is recorded as prayne or prane; no cognate form can be found in any other language.
Source: Wikipedia

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