Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another Weekday Dinner

শাক দিয়ে চিংড়ি
Spinach with Prawns

Spinach with prawns, served on a bed of boiled rice

It takes 10 minutes for rice to cook in the microwave, and another 2 minutes for it to cool down. That gives me 12 minutes to whip up a main dish - not quite enough time for anything traditionally Bangladeshi. But if you’re happy to spend just a little bit longer in the kitchen, this spinach and prawn combo will be done in around half an hour. Think 5 minutes of ingredient prep, 10 minutes to temper spices, and another 15 minutes to finish off the cooking process. The amounts below make a generous portion for one, or a side dish for two. It's an easy weeknight venture, making some allowances for the ingredients of course. I'm assuming a kitchen stocked with readymade garlic and ginger pastes, and prawns bought peeled and cleaned from a supermarket. 

It’s very common in Bangladesh for leaves to be cooked with freshwater prawns or the discarded bony parts of fish. The prawns or fish are meant to liven up a purely vegetarian dish, but traditionally they were never the main attraction. As people’s purchasing power has increased, this has changed, and growing up I looked forward to these more as seafood dishes. Across the extended family our parents upped the prawn content considerably, all to get the kids to eat their greens. The spices add a bit of heat to the dish, and the cooking time does mean that both the prawns and spinach are on the stove longer than is strictly necessary. But that’s the idea of the dish - mushy, soupy leaves studded with spiced prawns for a bit of bite. 

  • 1.00 medium onion
  • 0.75 teaspoons of garlic paste
  • 0.75 teaspoons of ginger paste
  • 0.75 teaspoons of powdered turmeric
  • 150.00 g of fresh prawns, cooked or uncooked, peeled and cleaned
  • 200.00 g of spinach
  • Salt, to taste (if using)

  • Put a large frying pan on the stove. Add a tablespoon of oil, and leave to heat
  • Finely chop the onion, and add to the pan
  • Fry the onions until they go soft, translucent and start to brown at the edges
  • While the onions are frying, boil 1.50 cups of water in the kettle
  • Once the onions are slightly browned, add the garlic and ginger pastes to the pan. Add a splash of boiled water, and stir everything together
  • Add the powdered turmeric, mix in and cook for 10 minutes. If the water starts to dry up add some more, making sure that the onions stay wet enough to form a sauce

The cooked prawns just after they
went into the pan with the onions.
Try and maintain this level of liquid
throughout the cooking process by adding hot
or boiling water as necessary

  • Add the prawns - cooked or uncooked will make no difference since raw prawns will cook quickly
  • Mix the prawns into the onion based sauce and leave to cook for 10 minutes, again adding water as needed if the dish dries up too much
  • Add salt to taste - bearing in mind cooked prawns are already salted and shouldn't need any extra
  • Add the spinach, mixing it in as it wilts and reduces

The frying pan just before the cover went on

  • Cover the pan and leave to cook for a final 10 to 15 minutes - the spinach should go dark green and mushy, as opposed to bright green and crunchy
  • Serve hot with plain boiled rice

Additional Info:
I leave out chillies from this recipe because I enjoy the natural sweetness of the prawns. However, feel free to add either powdered chilli with your turmeric, or some dried whole chillies just before adding the prawns. You can skip the prawns entirely to make this a vegetarian dish, but I'd recommend adding 0.25 teaspoons of garlic on top for a little more flavour. This dish would normally be served as the fish and/or vegetable component of a mutli-dish meal - combine this with recipes for chicken, other meats and carbs for a dinner party. For a purely vegetarian spinach recipe, see here, and for just prawns see here

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