There is a kind of summer afternoon that is almost magical. The afternoon that is neither too hot nor too cold, pleasantly breezy, and magically mellow. As I sit and type this I hear the gentle swishing of leaves and branches, the lake water lackadaisically lolling against the dock, the kids quietly painting, and Coke Studio in the background. We are up in the Kawarthas for our annual cottage vacation. The first time we came up here my little one wasn’t born yet and now she is the one who is most enthusiastic and will plunge right into the lake on overcast days with an infectious glee.
It’s getting warmer. I left the house without my puffer the other day. It felt quite liberating. Don’t laugh. Not unless you get winters like ours in which case it is a laughter of commiseration and I sort of want to fist bump you. Note to self: fist bumping is generally unnecessary unless you’re mimicking Baymax and Hiro from Big Hero 6 and it’s just you and your kids. Anyway back to the great weather. Unlike winter where my main outdoor activity is shoveling soon, warmer weather means I want to spend more time outside and less time inside cooking. That is the number one reason I love the idea of tray bakes. One pan dinners, minimal muss or fuss, healthy and tasty.
That first tear of chapati (flatbread), that first swoop through the curry, that first morsel of glistening fish with a scatter of cilantro as it gets scooped up into your mouth, that is a moment I look forward to every time I make this fish salan. I love the subtle notes of the golden onion, the lone tomato, and the moderate amount of fenugreek. The whole spices are there, but less aggressively so resulting in a curry that seems so perfect for this time of the year.
I didn’t grow up eating a lot of fish, not unless you count fish fingers as fish. It is only in recent years that I have started to cook it for a household that can’t live on chicken breasts alone and discovered how much I truly enjoy it’s delicacy. It is also an added bonus that once you’ve developed the curry part, the actual fish takes only minutes to cook meaning you could make the masala, set it aside and when you’re ready to eat it add the fish and finish the cooking.
My sister in law suggested adding fenugreek earlier in the cooking process and I find it works well, the flavor of the fenugreek seems to permeate the curry and the fish in a way my usual ‘last five minutes’ addition doesn’t. If you really enjoy the flavor of fenugreek you could easily double it here. If you are not a fan then leave it out and this will still be yummy.
I love 5 ingredient dishes and this is one of them – add something on the side and you’ve got a main. Serve on it’s own and you’ve got a delicious satisfying snack and all you need is lime, coconut, panko, egg, and shrimp. Shoot – and flour, but that’s optional so let’s call it a 5.5 ingredient dish shall we?
I love coconut shrimp, that slightly sweet ever so crunchy upgrade on classic fried shrimp. What makes these extra fun is the addition of panko and the zest of a lime.The panko bread crumbs add another airy yet crunchy element to the shrimp and the hint of lime heightens the coconut flavor.
The flour like I said is optional, but here is why I use it: I dislike naked shrimp. You know when you fry shrimp and only portions of it have crunch because despite your best effort the rest of it just won’t stay on? Once the shrimp goes into it’s egg bath the flour helps the crunchier elements adhere to the egg and covers the gaps between said crunchy elements to give you a shrimp that is evenly goldenly beautiful.
You are welcome to season as much as you like, but having made these a few time I must say I like it best when the subtle natural sweetness of the coconut shines through so a sprinkle of salt & pepper or a dash of fish sauce in the egg mixture is perfect for me.
I’ve been told that my family’s love for food is perhaps not entirely ‘normal’. What do I know – it’s normal for me 😉
I do know though that sometimes we can overdo it like the time my eldest brother and I decided to order food for sehri/suhoor from Barbq Tonite, a Karachi institution and home of some incredibly tasty prawn masala. The prawn masala was not the only dish we ordered – if memory serves correctly it was one of eight of which only the naan and half a kabab were left after the two of us were done with it. In our defense it was Ramadan – we were clearly internally stockpiling food… camel like and all…
I don’t know what it is that makes that prawn masala so good and I suspect I could spend endless hours in the kitchen and never achieve an exact copy, but man this one hits the spot. It is spicy and unctuous with it’s tender yet firm shrimp, the tomatoes that have been softened, but still hold their shape, the traditional karhai flavours slightly muted and loads of bright green cilantro and green chillies. The net result? Finger lickin’ good.
Oh and I usually use shrimp because I always have them handy, but you are welcome to use prawn.