June 6, 2014
I hardly get to Indian restaurants. The Peruvian man is unconvinced about paying for Indian food outside, when he gets quite enough of it at home already. And when I am out with friends, they lead the way.
This year I am on a mission. Every time it’s my turn to choose for a special occasion dinner, guess where we end up?
It’s been interesting.
The neighbourhood favourite on New Year’s Day kept our table of 8 waiting for well over an hour. One hour of false promises and no food later, I had a rant in Bengali at the owner. Mid way through the impassioned outburst, he stopped me to say he wasn’t Bengali and didn’t understand a word of what I was saying. This was followed quickly by a shaky phone call asking if I would like to return for a complimentary meal.
Then there was my Birthday at a veritable institution. Take a large group of hungry punters in a grand setting, and all we could decide on from the wide ranging menu was kebab platter and mixed breads. The only sparks that flew that night were from the dodgy fizzing candle in my celebratory cake.
And finally, the review lunch for my industry rag at London’s latest upmarket Indian restaurant. A homage to the Colonial times, with whirring fans and specialty game dishes spiced with a kick. Desperate to impress, I invited my peer, the MD of the Consumer Division, who declared, “I eat to live” in the cab on the way there, and “I don’t like game, and I can’t handle spicy food” to the bemused manager.
Until I get better at this, I am the mercy of cupboard handy and fridge freezer ready ingredients to create that rich, restaurant-style curry on busy week days. This one’s a pure classic: home made Prawn Bhuna. I usually have a bag of frozen prawns and frozen peas tucked away in the freezer, along with ginger cubes, and the rest of the ingredients are easy enough to find. Better still, with a dollop of Greek Yoghurt or generous pour of single cream, and ripped up fresh coriander on top, this could quite easily be the centre piece of a more fancy dinner.
I am eternally grateful to anyone who will bring a hot roti to my table. But sometimes there is nothing better than the comfort of home.
Grate the tomatoes, and then the ginger. In a small pan, bring the oil to heat on high. Add the sugar when the oil is hot, and as this caramelises, toss in the bay leaf and cinnamon. When they sizzle up, spoon in the grated ginger.
Toss in the chopped tomatoes when the ginger is golden, a minute or so in. Next, add the turmeric and chilli powders, and saute the masala for at least 15-20 minutes until it turns a deeper shade of red.
You will need to keep adding spoonfuls of warm water to prevent the masala from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, so keep a warm kettle handy.
At the end of the time, mix in the peas and prawns, and saute, lower the heat and simmer until the prawns are cooked through. Mix in the garam masala and stir through salt to your taste. Serve straightaway with rotis or parathas.