Rick Stein’s seafood odyssey, 256pp.
by Rick Stein
BBC Worldwide, London, 1999
Cooking on page 32–33
I love Rick Stein and his recipes. His television series are thoughtful and informative, and I really appreciate the way he interacts with his foreign hosts.
This cookbook is from one of his TV series. I bought it to take as a gift for someone who lives in Spain and who loves to cook seafood. Like so many of the cookbooks I acquire, I bought it secondhand at Canty’s Bookshop in Fyshwick. If you’re anywhere near Canberra, be sure to stop in to Canty’s. Their selection is huge (many new books too) and their prices are reasonable.
I’ve bought a few of Stein’s book there. For this book, Stein travels to seven of the world’s main centres of seafood excellence, picking up recipe ideas and sampling new ingredients.
It was an easy book for me to choose. Page 32 has an Indian caldine recipe. One of my very first page-32 recipes was for fish caldine from a cookbook I bought in Ghana.
550 g (1 1/4 lb) headless raw prawns (shrimps)
2 tablespoons coconut vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons white poppy seeds or ground almonds
4 tablespoons groundnut oil (peanut oil)
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2.5 cm (1 inch) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
400 ml (14 fl oz) coconut milk
4 tablespoons tamarind water
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
5 mild green finger chillies, halved, seeded and cut into long, thin shreds
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro)
Peel the prawns, leaving the last tail segment in place. Mix the prawns with the vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and leave for 5 minutes or so. This enhances the flavour. Meanwhile, put the turmeric powder, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and white poppy seeds, if using, into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the ground spices and fry for 2 minutes. Add the ground almonds, if you aren’t using poppy seeds, plus the coconut milk, tamarind water, water, three-quarters of the sliced chillies and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the prawns and simmer for only 3–4 minutes so they don’t overcook. Stir in the rest of the sliced chillies and the coriander and serve with some steamed basmati rice.
How it played out
As I set out to make this recipe—for Christmas Day lunch— I realised I didn’t have five finger chillies. In fact, I didn’t have any fresh chillies. Grrrr! But then it occurred to me that the IGA in the downtown bus interchange would probably be open. Their sign says ‘open 24/7’. So I hopped in the car and dashed to Civic, which is only five minutes away from us. And yes, they were open and had green chillies on special. Recipe and lunch menu saved.
As for the recipe, I especially appreciated the fact that Stein specified headless prawns. It always helps to know weights before you start. I’d bought 1100 grams of largish prawns in the shell. After I broke off the heads, I had 660 grams to work with. I figured that was close enough to 550 grams, so used them all.
I followed the rest of the recipe, using ground almonds instead of white poppy seeds. Never knew almonds were a good substitute for white poppy seeds, so that was a nice bit of info. Made tamarind water by stirring a heaped teaspoon of tamarind paste into a 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of warm water.
The hardest part—meaning the most time-consuming—of this recipe was peeling and deveining the prawns (shrimps). This is always a pain, but I found that once the heads were pulled off, it was fairly easy to grab the prawn’s digestive tract and pull it out. Another good find.
Served with mashed potatoes left over from Christmas Eve lunch.
A tasty dish that we enjoyed, but my memory says that I enjoyed the fish caldine recipe from Ghana even more.
I will most likely not make this again, because I have heaps of other page-32 prawn recipes still to make.
It’s summer in Australia, so our Christmas celebrations aren’t quite the same as those in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures is some places can reach 40°C (104°F) or more. Seafood and cold lunches are common (not the rule, but common).
So here’s another prawn/shrimp recipe that would be great for a festive occasion.
And don’t forget to check out my travel blog.