At last! I put the Trinidadian Prawn Curry on the menu list - and actually got to make it.
Having done so, all I can say is "wow!". "Some like it hot" is about right - this stuff is almost dangerous, it's that hot. I know my hubby will be saying to himself "well it wasn't THAT bad - I could have gone a bit hotter", but for me it was right on the edge of being too hot (spicy hot, that is!). Having had a little taste of the final product just before serving, I wouldn't have been surprised if it had melted the plastic serving spoon.
Mind you, having said that, it wasn't an aggressive heat. The chilli effect (a combination of ginger, black pepper, medium curry powder and Scotch Bonnet pepper) was certainly well rounded and didn't immediately grab you by the back of the throat and threaten to throttle you. It developed in your mouth and those different sources of flavour seemed to affect different taste buds. I thoroughly enjoyed it (as did everyone - including son & heir) even though I had to bail out slightly before I'd finished. Son & heir was quite happy to take care of any leftovers I might have had, so nothing got wasted!
This was the first time I'd used a Scotch Bonnet pepper in anything and, if I'm honest, I was a little bit scared of it. Mind you - get this - when I opened the cellophane wrapper, there inside, happily marching around taking bites out of my peppers, was a caterpillar! Kudos to you, little caterpillar, you must have cast iron insides! He's now marching around inside a bin bag, feasting upon veggie peelings and probably considering ordering a takeaway, just to get some spice.
I was alert to the warnings about getting Scotch Bonnet all over my fingers, then not rubbing my eyes, so I used a couple of freezer bags over my left hand while the right hand did the chopping. A wise precaution, I think, as I don't own any rubber gloves. As with all chillies, I did my usual "tongue test" in that I cut a tiny piece off and just touch it to my tongue to test the heat of the chilli. I find it's always worth knowing, so that you can judge how much (or how little) to use. I was surprised to find that (because these Scotch Bonnets aren't terribly juicy - I don't know if that's true of all of them) my tongue didn't immediately burst into flames, so I used the prescribed half a pepper, minus seeds.
One thing that peeved me about the original recipe (which can be found here and is by Gary Rhodes and Fazil Bacchus), is that the quantities of ingredients given for the "Spice Paste" or "Green Seasoning mix", makes twice the amount required for the dish. Now that's okay if you are planning on having a similar thing again tomorrow, but I wasn't - and wound up throwing away half the paste. I do think that mention of this should have been made in the recipe, as it was a terrible waste of ingredients - and money! I gather that I could have frozen half the spice paste and it would apparently have survived to fight again another day. However, I've not had much luck in doing that in the past and didn't much fancy setting out to make it again only to find that the spice paste has deteriorated in the freezer and (of course) I wouldn't have any replacements. So, for me, that was intensely annoying. For that reason, I've halved the ingredients in the recipe detailed below.
Having assembled the spice paste and incorporated it with the prawns, I looked at what was left to prepare and, for the life of me, couldn't really see how it was going to turn into a curry. It was at this point that I began to worry - but if you're making it, nil desperandum! The process is so quick and so simple that it's almost like watching magic unfold before your eyes. The end result isn't (of course) much like an Indian Curry as we know them, but it is a curry all the same - just with a different texture, a looser sauce but amazing and complex layers of flavour.
My only error with this curry was to use poor prawns. Not prawns with holes in their shoes, you understand, but peeled, cooked, small prawns. I can see that it would be far, far nicer with an arm and a leg's worth of juicy, raw Tiger or King prawns. My little prawns - even though the cooking process was so quick, suffered for having been cooked a little too long and weren't exactly rubbery but were headed that way.
Still, I'd be very curious to see how this spice mix translated to a chicken curry - and may very well investigate that next.
So, in essence, I can't recommend this curry highly enough. Just so long as you can cope with a hot chilli experience - and don't try to tamp down the chilli, it just isn't worth it as this curry is meant to be hot - and you can afford the prawns, go for it! You'll be glad you did.
TRINIDADIAN PRAWN CURRY (feeds 3)
For the spice mix :
1 tsp ginger, chopped finely or grated (I used a ginger paste)
a medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
half a red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 large sprig fresh thyme (I used 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 small stick celery, chopped
10ml white wine vinegar
pinch ground black pepper.
For the curry :
1-2 tbsp medium curry powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g shelled prawns (I used 300g frozen North Atlantic Prawns, which wasn't a good idea)
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
half a small celery stick, chopped finely
half a Scotch Bonnet pepper, seeds removed and chopped finely.
1. First thing to do is to make the spice mix. So, into a food processor, place the ginger, onions, garlic, red pepper, coriander, thyme, parsley, celery and vinegar. Blend until smooth.
2. Place the prawns into a large bowl and add the spice mix. Stir to combine and leave to marinate for 30 minutes or so.
3. Blend the curry powder with around 125ml of water - enough to make a slack paste.
4. Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat and fry the curry paste for around a minute, stirring all the time to ensure it doesn't burn.
5. Add the prawn mixture to the pan and cook for around 3-4 minutes until the prawns are changing colour and the spice mixture has softened.
6. If necessary (I didn't need to), add enough water to make the sauce and continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes until the prawns are cooked and tender.
7. At the last minute, stir in the coriander, celery and chilli.
8. Serve with some kind of flatbread (roti or chapati) and steamed rice.