Bubba’s Big Shrimp Love- Part 2

Bubba’s big shrimp love spills over from last week

  • Shrimp Kabobs

Kabob, kebob, kebab, kabab may mean different things in various parts of the world, but more often than not, the grilled meat connotation seems to be all-pervading. In case of the USA, the term ‘kabob’ is used for meat skewered on a stick (the term popular in India for such food is ‘tikka’).

These shrimp/prawn kabobs are marinated in Italian salad dressing; the dried herbs and slightly sweet tanginess punctuated by fruity olive oil impart a lot of flavour to the crustaceans and other vegetables. The recipe calls for onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and green bell peppers, but you could also use other bell peppers, zucchini etc. The marinating time is essential for the flavours to soak in, and if you don’t want to light up the grill, that’s okay. A hot oven will work in a pinch.

Recipe: Shrimp Kabobs

  • Shrimp Creole

“Shrimp Creole originated in South Louisiana where gulf shrimp are plentiful”, the recipe introduction tells us. At its most basic, this dish is another variant of one of those stews served over rice. That’s not all though; this one is packed with flavour in the form of spices and shrimp stock. We’re talking aromatics, bay leaves, hot sauce and signature Creole seasoning made with ground spices mixed with dried herbs.

This version by Emeril Lagasse, well-known for his Cajun and Creole food expertise and recipes, uses a flour and water mix to thicken the stew; there are other versions that use cornstarch. Either way, it’s the vegetables, spices and large prawns that make the dish the delight it is. Serve over long-grained white rice for the best meal experience.

Recipe: Emeril’s Shrimp Creole

  • Shrimp Gumbo

“Bubba’s Shrimp Gumbo”, Paula Deen calls this recipe. The ‘Bubba’, however, is not our favourite Pvt. Benjamin Buford Blue, best mate to Forrest Gump, however; it’s her brother whose recipe she shares. Every gumbo, even the ones made with chicken etc. needs to have okra, and this one does too; the okra also helps thicken the stew, as Paula informs us.

Lots of butter, shrimp stock and clam juice (skip this if not available), and those fragrant spices in Cajun seasoning make this hearty and delicioso. The sausage renders deep, smoky flavours, therefore do not skimp on that one. Like most stews, this one is great over rice (with a dash of butter), and even better the next day.

Recipe: Bubba’s Shrimp Gumbo

  • Pineapple Shrimp

Pineapple and shrimp may not be the first pairing to come to your mind; not like butter and shrimp or garlic and shrimp, but if you think about it, the fruit augments the saline sweetness of the seafood with its fragrant mellowness. This recipe adds more sweetness, and smoky spice in the form of BBQ sauce, and we know the great comradeship BBQ sauce and prawns share. The awesome threesome come together in a stir-fry dotted with crisp bits of onion, garlic, and bell pepper; you could even toss celery bits in the butter with the other veggies.

A touch of hot green chilli pepper will even out the square of flavour, and the 3 lead stars get to shine brighter. A great supporting cast does just that.

Recipe: Pineapple BBQ Shrimp

  • Lemon Shrimp

Pineapple may be the new good friend to prawns, but let’s not forget the original fair-and-foul-weather besties who’ve always been there, ever ready to boost and bring out the best in our favourite seafood, and also rescue the saddest prawn dish. All hail the three stalwarts, prawns’ knights in shining armour—lemon, butter and garlic, a.k.a. Those-Who-Can-Never-Go-Wrong.

Some people like to marinate their prawns in a squeeze of lemon and freshly cracked black pepper, or even a touch of cayenne, so that is a great tip to use for a change. Also, feel free to sub a splash of wine for the water. If you really love your lemon flavours, you may want to consider adding a bit of grated zest to the pan. Serve over pasta, as recommended, or on bruschetta, with or without the tomato and basil.

Recipe: Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp

  • Coconut Shrimp

Coconut shrimp or prawns in India may bring to mind a masala stir-fry with coconut slivers, curry leaves and lots of heat, or a coconut-laced fragrant curry. Bubba, however, was possibly talking about coconut-crusted fried shrimp, crisp on the outside, melting within.

The recipe is fairly easy, and calls for few things—6 ingredients in all, not counting salt and pepper—, but is one of those dishes that give you more for very less. Skip the sweetened coconut in favour of unsweetened, if you so desire. Either way, the “awesomesauce” the author recommends—1 part Thai chilli sauce to 2 parts orange marmalade—sounds like the perfect accompaniment to this crunchy appetizer.

A simple recipe like this calls for great prawns to begin with. Find them here

Recipe: Easy Coconut Shrimp

  • Pepper Shrimp

Prawns stir-fried with just salt and pepper are comforting in a way only the simplest, most flavourful ingredients can be. Like cheese, or butter, or chocolate. This dish takes the flavours in its deceptively simple name several notches higher, with the addition of Sichuan peppercorns and a fresh red chilli. The prawns are crunchy thanks to the seasoned cornstarch rub at the beginning. The fried prawns are tossed with ground Sichuan pepper and chilli bits. Serve with chopped coriander, and a squeeze of lime if needed.

Recipe: Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp

  • Shrimp Soup

This one comes from a “restaurant” in California that has a single dish on the menu—shrimp soup. For an establishment that focuses on doing one dish, and doing it best, the name “Killer Shrimp” is surely justified. The list of ingredients is not very long, but the cooking time of 3 hours may put you off. This, however, is essential to the “slaying” ability of the dish; the first hour sees the clam juice (or prawn stock), broth, butter, rosemary and spices simmer gently; the latter two hours asks for the addition of wine and occasional stirring.

The last 3 minutes of cooking time is when the eponymous ingredient makes an appearance, and yet receives top billing—talk about star power! The soup gets its colour from the tomato paste, and the unhurried hours of simmering. Serve with the crusty French loaf as instructed, or inside a bread bowl; your meal is ready.

Recipe: Killer Shrimp Soup

  • Shrimp Stew

There’s shrimp Creole and Cajun-style Gumbo, and there’s real Southern-style Cajun shrimp stew with a rich shrimp stock base simmered and brought to perfection in a couple of hours. This comes with potatoes which add body to the broth, and also add to the heartiness. The roux made with oil and flour (can use butter instead of oil) adds deep flavour and thickness; combined with onion, and sometimes green pepper, forms the base of many a Cajun stewed dish.

Serve with rice, or eat with a side of thick loaves. And remember to never overcook your shrimp; it hates heat, as much as a Polar bear does.

Recipe: Cajun Shrimp Stew

  • Shrimp Salad

You can almost imagine Southern ladies serving this cold prawn salad alongside pitchers of cold ice tea for lunch on a hot day, followed by some pie maybe, for dessert. Or making sandwiches with it. You could even devise wraps with it, makes for a cooling meal, especially in the sweltering summers, when no one wants to spend more than 20 minutes in the kitchen. This is best served cold, so account for the chilling time; this also brings the flavours together, and you end up with a bowl of creamy mayo-slathered prawns with the crunch of vegetable bits.

Old Bay seasoning is good to have around, and you could also make your own. For a serving variation, fold the salad onto each lettuce ‘cup’. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Old Bay Shrimp Salad

  • Shrimp and Potatoes

The shrimp and potatoes in this dish are seasoned with curry powder and cooked separately. A final toss in the skillet brings the aforementioned ingredients together, with salt and pepper making the final connect.

The olive oil adds freshness, but you could try using the same amount of butter to cook the prawns; prawns and butter revive their old relationship and bring the potatoes in on the camaraderie with equal enthusiasm. The curry powder bestows flavour blessings on the union of the trio, the spring onions are the final garnish at the celebration.

A dash of lemon at the finish wouldn’t be amiss either. Bring out the wine to round up the festivities.

Recipe: Shrimp with Scallions and Crispy Potatoes

  • Shrimp Burger

The Old Bay mayo returns for another round of Southern gastronomic adventure; this time as one of the protagonists in Shrimp Burgers with Old Bay Mayo. Another reason why you need to have some lying around, and there are plenty more. The prawns, meanwhile, get the royal burger treatment; some coarsely chopped, some processed with bread crumbs, egg and seasoning and formed into patties.

Fried in a skillet, the crisp patties sit on top of Old Bay mayo-slathered bun halves and are topped with avocado, lettuce and tomato. Add a slice of cheese while frying, if the whole cheeseburger experience is what you love. The burger is brilliant, either way, and may just become your new go-to burger.

Recipe: Shrimp Burgers with Old Bay Mayo

  • Shrimp Sandwich

We will assume Bubba meant a shrimp Po’ Boy when he was talking about a shrimp sandwich. What better way to put crunchy, full-on flavoured prawns between slices of crusty and soft baguette? Of course, the bread needs to have a remoulade slapped on—this is no ordinary mayo, it has spicy Cajun genes, mustard and horseradish in its DNA.

The crunchy shrimp isn’t the usual bread crumb-crusted affair either. The staple of the American South, cornmeal makes a dashing appearance as the breading ingredient of choice. Lettuce and tomato slices make sandwich complete. And follow the recipe to the T, especially when it says “Serve at once with hot sauce and a beer.”

Recipe: Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich

Like Bubba concluded his shrimp quote, “That- that’s about it.”

Which one are you going to cook this weekend?

About the Author

An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
Image Credit: Cover
Image Credit: Shrimp Kabobs
Image Credit: Shrimp Creole
Image Credit: Shrimp Gumbo
Image Credit: Pineapple Shrimp
Image Credit: Lemon Shrimp
Image Credit: Coconut Shrimp
Image Credit: Pepper Shrimp
Image Credit: Shrimp Soup
Image Credit: Shrimp Stew
Image Credit: Shrimp Salad
Image Credit: Shrimp and Potatoes
Image Credit: Shrimp Burger
Image Credit: Shrimp Sandwich

Bubba’s Big Shrimp Love- Part 1

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.”
Out of all the characters in Forrest Gump, Pvt. Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue may be remembered most for his culinary contribution; in sixty two words, Bubba gave millions of shrimp fanatics the succinct recipe and cooking inspo guide to everything you could do with shrimp. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Chain of restaurants came about as a result of Bubba’s love for shrimp that was extended to other seafood and meats.
Of course, nitpickers will mention shrimp curry, mousse, braised shrimp etc. that Bubba doesn’t touch upon at all. But as Forrest’s “best good friend” says, more or less, “That- that’s about it.”
Here is the first part of recipes inspired by Bubba’s shrimp love. Now you may not always get your hands on shrimp, so there’s prawns you can forever count upon to step in. The difference between shrimps and prawns is not really just size, contrary to popular belief. It’s mostly anatomical, and since they are both incredibly tasty, one can be substituted with the other at all times.
No better time to get the prawn cooking apron cracking than the weekend; order all prawn sizes here
Bubba’s Shrimp Recipe Ideas:
Barbecue It: 

Both Forrest and Bubba were from Alabama, (“not relations”, even if Lt. Dan thought so), so the love of BBQ would be as deep ingrained as the presence of iced teas and mint juleps. And this is not your regular BBQ sauce-smothered grilled meat we’re talking about; this one has plenty of butter, bay leaves, even Worcestershire sauce and that old Southern spice rack staple, Old Bay seasoning. If Old Bay seasoning can’t be found at your local store, it’s pretty easy to put together yourself. This shrimp or prawn dish is best served with a side of crusty bread.
Recipe: BBQ Shrimp
Boil It: 

No no, this is not boiled shrimp added to bland pasta or stuffed inside pastry dough. The crawfish boil from Louisiana has a shrimp version, which has the same blend of Cajun spices and seasoning and the deliciousness of jumbo crustaceans. The ingredient list may read a little long, but you’ll easily find the ingredients around in your pantry. A squeeze of lemon makes the dish roar into throbbing life. 
Recipe: Shrimp Boil
Broil It:

When a recipe is called ‘Outrageously Good Broiled Shrimp’, you better believe it. Big-sized shrimp (or prawn) are brushed with butter, so the seasoned bread crumbs and chopped parsley will stay put. A daub of more butter and the pan-ful of prawns goes under the broiler, to be broiled until lightly charred. Since these cook really quickly, this dish can be put together at the last minute, when you need a quick appetizer or have unexpected company over. A squeeze of citrus is optional, but really recommended to bring out the garlic and parsley flavours.
Bake It:

Ok, so this may have all the usual prawn-friendly favourites of garlic, butter and parsley, but never underestimate what white wine and a buttered panko crumb topping can do to good quality prawns. A total time of 20 minutes, including prep and cooking, is what you’ll need to put this together. How much more quickly it disappears is another question entirely. Serve with a salad or stir-fried/roasted veggies, or maybe tomato-rubbed toasts for a satiating meal. A glass of white won’t be out of line either.
Sauté It:

This simple dish of prawns tossed with garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes is great on its own, and even better when served atop a simple spaghetti aglio olio or tagliatelle cooked with tomatoes and garlic. Be careful not to overcook your prawns; there’s nothing worse than biting into a forkful of perfectly seasoned rubber that smells of the sea.
Recipe: Sauted Shrimp 
Pan fried:

Don’t be too surprised if this one skillet dish becomes a summer favourite the very first time you make it. Easy to put together and quick to cook, it’s what you need to stay out of hot kitchens chilling with cold brews. This calls for both dried oregano and snipped fresh basil, and don’t skip the squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil on top.
Deep fried:

Frying and prawns go together, just like Forrest and Jenny, “peas in a pod”. Shrimp popcorn has always held its own, against regular popcorn or even chicken nuggets, for that matter. The panko bread crumbs in this bring on next-level crunch. XXL-sized prawns are the best contenders for deep-frying, opt for smaller-sized ones only if you need to. Crispy prawns don’t need too much by way of dips, but most people like to serve tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, hot sauce, BBQ or even ranch dressing. A light aioli won’t be too outré either; after all, ketchup needs a worthy companion too sometimes.

Jumbo prawns are stir-fried with garlic and olive oil and set aside. Next, veggies like grape tomatoes, zucchini chunks and corn kernels are tossed in the same pan, with the prawns thrown in the last few seconds of cooking. Everything gets turned in onto a platter, and chiffonaded basil, freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of lemon on top gives it its Italian flavours and freshness. Great on its own, you may want to serve it over rice too.

About the Author

An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
Image Credit: Cover
Image Credit: Barbecue It
Image Credit: Boil it
Image Credit: Broil it
Image Credit: Bake it
Image Credit: Saute it
Image Credit: Pan fried
Image Credit: Deep fried
Image Credit: Stir fried

The Cheat’s Guide to Grilling

‘Tis the season! To be around friends and family, sharing joy and warm cheer over good food and drink. The chill in the air also calls for huddling over a warm pot or a grill, so put your aprons on, and dial your lovelies to come over; it’s the weekend before Xmas, so celebrations need to start pronto.
But a party calls for a lot of pre-event work—menu planning, buying, prepping, marinating, and more. Let’s make this easier for you. How about you choose your favourites, order, and receive premium cuts soaked in scrumptious marinades, so you can relax and grill at leisure. Pour the wine, pass the beers around; having a party was never so easy.
Whether you’re a pro or beginner, here’s a quick guide to grilling these juicy meats, to make your ‘do rank sky-high in the memorable party order of things. Also, you’ll need sides to go with those platters of seriously good grills. And a good party is never complete without a coordinated wine pairing, right?

Grilling Cheatsheet:
1) Start with the essentials: You’ll need:

  • A sturdy grill, whether portable or fixed, really basic or something fancy, this will be something you will spend the most time around. Buy a new one, or borrow from a friend or from one of those professional dealers.
  • Coal or charcoal briquettes
    • Lighting blocks (you may choose other stuff, but these are quite effective, especially if you’re just starting out)
    • Newspaper sheets and twigs
    • Tongs to place and flip the food
    • Oven mitts
    • A meat thermometer (not essential, but good to have around)
    • Plenty of plates and cutlery
    • A Kiss the Chef apron (really optional)
    2) Clean your grill: You want to start afresh every time. Here are Some tips

    3) Light up: A hands-on video to get things going.
    We Didn’t Start the Fire is mandatory grilling playlist material.
    4) Cook: Chicken is one of the easiest meats to cook, but grilling it for too long is unforgivable; no one enjoys dried-out, chewy drumsticks or legs. Too less time on the grill means seemingly cooked exteriors with raw insides. Both extremes are easily avoided, with the help of these tips and tricks.

    The cut of meat is important, as is the marinade and marinating time. Thanks to the excellent, pre-marinated selection, that part is already taken care of, so you can move on the next bit. A smart way to get on with things.
    Start with marinated chicken that is a little cool, if not exactly room temperature. Ensure the grill temperature is just right; you don’t want it very high, a medium range works well for chicken. 
    Cover the meat after a couple of minutes; this takes care of the coveted juiciness and thorough cooking right into the centre. Flip at regular intervals for even cooking. 
    Basting with a liquid is important; the point being introducing flavourful moisture to the meat, which is absorbed readily thanks to the heat. Even basting is the secret to many a delish BBQ. Baste with a sauce, or butter, or oil, or, as an experienced kebabwala from the street cart confides— a mix of oil, water and a squeeze of lime. 
    A nifty guide to grilling chicken can be found here


    The Sides:

    Mashed potatoes with any toppings are almost compulsory with grilled food. The fluffier, the better (butter actually). Try using sweet potatoes instead of regular, or a mix; both make for good accompaniments with grilled chicken. Mix in some chopped cooked bacon or a smoked cheddar and sliced chives, or feta and chopped parsley. Plenty of mashed potato ideas here


    Grilled flatbreads with cheese, even cheese garlic naan are excellent to wrap your succulent chicken bites. Try a roti warmed on the grill with zaatar and olive oil for an unusual option. 

    The grill and corn are the legendary black-and-yellow match made in heaven. Serve these chilli lime corn wheels, or throw a couple of cobs on the grill, and experiment with flavourings. Here’s how


    Salads are a great, fresh foil for the deep smoky flavours of the meat. An Indian-style kachumber is de rigueur; jazz it up with a fruity extra virgin and an orange and lemon dressing. Turn the roasted corn from above into a tasty salad


    A pasta salad is another super carb side toss it either with mayo or BBQ sauce.

    BBQing may be one of the few times red wine will not be askew when paired with chicken. A smoky, spicy chicken will stand up well to a bold Merlot or Malbec. A milder rosé will go agreeably with lightly flavoured grilled chicken. Look at a deep Zinfandel to serve with chicken grilled with BBQ sauce. For chicken with a full-bodied, bold dry rub, reach for a light Riesling.

    About the Author
    An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
    Image Credit: Cover
    Image Credit: Grilling Cheatsheet
    Image Credit: Essentials
    Image Credit: Grill Charcoal
    Image Credit: Flame Ash
    Image Credit: Chicken Grilled
    Image Credit: Barbecue
    Image Credit: Mashed Potatoes
    Image Credit: Barbecue Corn
    Image Credit: Salad
    Image Credit: Tasty Salad
    Image Credit: Wine

    Cluck, Bleat and Bubble— 8 recipes using chicken, mutton and fish

    Winter is here, and so is FishVish’s premium chicken and mutton. There’s seafood already, of course. What can you do with all 3? Hmmm, good question, but we have plenty of answers.

    • The mother of all feasts: A Mixed Biryani with Mutton, Chicken, Prawns and Fish

    Claiming to be Hyderabadi in origin, this biryani underlines what the legendary royal excess of the state has always been made out to be. After all, we’re talking about the legacy of the egg-inside-quail-inside-chicken-inside-goat.

    While not quite on the scale of the culinary Russian nesting doll, this celebratory recipe could be the single-dish answer to the feast menu planning. With an expectedly long list of ingredients and cooking steps, this is not your everyday biryani, but you may want to whip it up for every celebration you want to make memorable.

    • Chicken and MuttonMince and chicken cheeseburgers

    Some burger recipes may call for ground pork to add to the meat patty, or crisped bacon as another layer in the yummy burger build-up, but what is lesser known is a combination of ground-up chicken and meat. The bold flavours of the ground meat are offset by the milder, but equally tasty minced chicken. Two different ingredients that make a cheeseburger extra meaty, extra tasty, and of course, double the fun.  
    The recipe calls for minced beef, but mutton keema works equally well. For fuller-bodied flavours, replace the onion and garlic powders with finely chopped or grated onion and garlic. For heat, if you like your food spicy, add a chopped green chilli.
    • Mutton Keema-stuffed Chicken Potli Kebab

    Here’s how to shine at your next dinner party: 1) Order your mutton keema and chicken breasts 2) Follow this well-written recipe for a triple whopper of chicken, mutton and desi spices 3) Watch as jaws drop at your soiree, when your guests see platters of these beauties. 4) Practice charmingly fobbing off compliments, because there are going to be a lot of those.
    ‘Potli’ meaning a small bag is the appropriate name for these meaty moneybags. The mincemeat stuffing for these is cooked with rich spices like star anise, mace, nutmeg with a touch of rose water and ghee. Make sure the chicken breasts are flattened evenly, they need to be thin enough to contain the stuffing when the ends are pulled up and tied together. The aluminium foil string is another reminder of the moneybag affiliation.
    • Chicken and FishSeafood and Chicken Paella

    Seekers will find plenty of chicken and seafood stews and rice dishes all over the world. Possibly, perhaps, because enough cooks have discovered the magic of the not-so-secret idea of combining white protein together, to create the most deliciously satisfying recipes. The paella is one of these—tantalizingly loaded with fat shrimp, chicken pieces, slivers of fish, all accented with a saffron-hued and scented chicken stock that the rice and meat cook in. There are easy paella recipes and there are those that are best saved for leisure. But they are all promise a memorable meal that’ll bring back happy memories of beaches and sand.
    Feel free to skip the chorizo, but ensure the right quality of rice to make this simple version. And don’t skip or skimp on the saffron; it punctuates the seafood flavour with its own aromatic subtlety. 

    Recipe: Seafood and Chicken Paella

    • Liberian Chicken Gravy

    The chicken gravy in the name is a little misleading; the seafood in the dish plays enough of a leading role to get top billing. If it were a movie, the seafood would be the romance for the dashing chicken, simmered on the bone, in all its glory. Amidst the backdrop of the aromatics, the hot peppers, vegetables and herbs, the love would thrive and the story shared with generations to come.
    The seafood mix here doesn’t need to be too much; some prawns and fried steaks of firm fish fit the bill just fine. And rice is the perfect companion to witness the successful marriage of the leading cast, due credit given or not.
    • Garlic Shrimp Stuffed Chicken Breasts

    Chicken breasts are a great vehicle to carry scrumptious stuffing—including minced meat, cheese and seafood, especially prawns. This recipe stands out for the special treatment it gives to the chicken; instead of simmering it in a sauce like you would expect, the chicken breast is flattened, marinated, stuffed with cooked prawns and thrown on the grill. 
    The marinade has chilli peppers and its cousins in 3 forms—paprika, sambal oelek and roasted red pepper. The smoke from the grill pumps up the deep heat, and the result is a juicy, oozing with flavour chicken dish. Oh, and the some of the marinade is reserved to serve as a sauce. Delish.
    • Fish and muttonConfit of Tuna in Red-wine Sauce

    This old article, published about 20 years ago, talks about the Michelin star Gordon Ramsay earned for “his flair in front of the stove”. A couple of decades and several Michelin stars later, Ramsay is one of the best known faces in the business. His culinary wizardry stands out in his approach even back then, when he says “I often serve fish with meat-stock based sauces”. Why don’t we all do this, you may wonder—the deep flavours of meat stock are the perfect foil for the light delicateness of fish and seafood.
    In this recipe, the meatiness of tuna steaks is brought out brilliantly by the richness of the red wine and chicken stock sauce, which can only be made better by a clear mutton broth, a recipe for which can be found here. The five-spice powder adds a fragrant complexity to the nuances of the dish. Serve with fried new potatoes, asparagus spears and green beans, as Ramsay suggests.
    • Assorted Fish and Meat Sauce

    Nigerian cooking is all-embracing, incorporating different meats, grains and beans, spices and vegetables available in the region. The focus on stews and soups is prominent, as is the penchant for using not ordinarily paired ingredients. Take this assorted fish and meat stew, for example. It uses 3 kinds of fish, dried and fresh, in a hot sauce that features fried meat. A sure way to shake up things, when meal ideas are hard to come by.
    The fried meat is easily subbed with pieces of fried goat meat, that you can find here. Serve with sides of rice, boiled potatoes, yam, bread etc., as the recipe author recommends.
    Do you have any never-heard-of-before chicken, mutton and fish recipes of your own? Do share, we would love to hear of them. 

    About the Author
    An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.

    Cracking the Code: Your Guide to Cooking with Octopus

    Deep Down Inside (the sea)
    Octopus is as common as prawns and fish along the coast.
    I can’t really remember the first time I ate octopus; it was definitely not in my growing years—we stuck to freshly caught river fish, since salt-water fish was almost impossible to procure in our nook of the hinterland. Adulthood ushered in experimenting with newer foods, which was further supported by the move to a bigger city with more food-crazy people to make friends with and eateries that welcomed patrons looking for new experiences. Honest confession: I’ve stuck to grilled octopus all the times I’ve had the privileged option of ordering this not-so-good-looking eight-armed “monster of the deep”. The last time this happened was at a teeny South Beach store of a popular Miami ceviche chain; we carried our order out to the beer lounge of a youth hostel next door, ordering a round with our tasty dinner, the last night of our trip. I ordered a fish and shrimp ceviche aji amarillo-style, grilled octopus and a side of mango slaw. Of course it was a lot of food for one person, and I surely would’ve been happy with the grilled octo and tangy slaw.
    Octopus may be an exotic ingredient for a lot of us inlanders, but it’s as common as prawns and fish for the folk living by the sea, along the coastline. While not the most popular of seafood galore, octopus has its own following of fervent fans who appreciate its deep-sea brininess and distinct flavour. And while grilling seems to be the most popular way of enjoying this fascinating creature around the world, there are plenty of stews, curries, and even raw dishes to line up for the bucket list. Raw octopus may literally be the last one on the “things to eat before you die” list; Korean sannakji is still-wriggling octopus cut into small pieces, served with salt and sesame oil. These are to be chewed well before swallowing them down your throat; the suction cups on the arms have been known to latch on to the inner walls. Very few seafood varieties can claim to bring on such excitement and thrill. 
    You may think there’s something royal about octopuses; they literally are blue-blooded, and are marked in shades of purple, that colour most associated with nobility. Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, they exhibit complex behaviour, including using coconut shells to conceal themselves and changing body shapes to mimic other animals. They are all venomous, but the venom is mild in most species making them perfectly fine to eat. The strikingly pretty blue-ringed octopus, however, carries enough venom to kill twenty-six adult humans within minutes. Just like the other cephalopods that include squid and cuttlefish, octopuses eject a dark ink when threatened. Masters of camouflage, they can change colours to match surroundings. Most species inhabit the deep depths of seas and oceans, but some are found closer to the surface and also tide pools and coral reefs.
    In The Raw
    Baby octopus is prized all over the world.
    Raw, octopus meat is white and purple, gelatinous and firm. When cooked, the outside turns a reddish pink, while the inside is all white. The arms, misleadingly termed ‘tentacles’ have rows of suckers, similar to those seen on squids; the array patterns may differ between species though. Octopus meat is lean in fat, low-calorie and full of protein; dieters and gym rats revel in the 160 calories and 30 grams of protein each tasty portion of 100 grams has. The meat is especially rich in iron and Omega-3 fatty acids, with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium and vitamin B12 thrown in. The cholesterol content, just like in some other seafood, may be a little higher than what’s ideal, but a small serving eaten regularly is just what keeps the nutritionist stoked.
    Getting hold of freshly caught octopus may be easier if you live next to the coast, or have access to a supermarket or fishmonger getting daily deliveries of fresh catch. Cleaning fresh octopus can be a little tricky, but there are several tutorials available, breaking the process down into easy steps for noobs. The process is riveting, from the removal of the eyes and beak to the blanching of tentacles in boiling water, so that they curl up evenly. Using the frozen version makes it so much easier though, since it is usually cleaned and prepped, ready to be cooked, so no advance planning is required. Another bonus—frozen octopus is much easier to work with. A lot of home cooks recommend freezing fresh octopus to tenderize it for faster cooking, so you already have a head start. Thawing 10-12 hours in the fridge before cooking is an option, or accelerate this by putting the sealed package in cold water for about 30 minutes. Open package, and use contents as needed. Remember to maintain a constant cold temperature for the meat, if not cooking right away. 
    The Long and Short of It
    Octopus is either flash cooked or stewed for a long time.
    Which brings us to the best part, where it gets more exciting. Also, sometimes confusing. Octopus is one of those ingredients that elicit a cluster of cooking suggestions ranging from the obvious to the aberrant— either flash cook it or braise or simmer for hours, as for squid; thwack it against rocks (or a kitchen sink for the modern version); boil in a copper pot; simmer with a wine cork.  Scientists, however, suggest adding a bit of vinegar and lots of cooking time for a richly flavoured dish with the right bit of bite. All however don’t agree, but old, inherited wisdom and hands-on experience do seem to have the authoritative edge. 
    Many of the suggestions for cooking squid can be applied to cooking octopus as well; which only makes sense since they both belong to the same cephalopod family. Octopus that has been cooked longer than a minute or two, but lesser than the hour or so recommended to break down the gelatinous tissue will be chewy and rubbery—exactly the thing some diners complain about, and cite as an excuse to avoid eating. But blame the unskilled hands, since well-cooked meat is a pleasure to eat—not exactly melting, but tender with a bite. Baby octopuses cook faster than fully-grown animals, so it’s not uncommon to find grilled baby octopus served with a dipping sauce, or in salad.
    Low and slow simmering is the key to cooking. “The average simmering time should be about an hour for a one pound (450g) Octopus, two hours for a four pound (1.8kg) Octopus, but that will vary.” suggests Cook’s info. You could simmer the meat in water, or stew it in a stock, adding onions or leeks, garlic, herbs like thyme and parsley, even spices like bay leaves, peppercorns etc. The tenderized meat can be finished on the grill, quickly charring it, or added to stews and curries. The braising stock can added to the latter for better flavours. The meat shrinks quite a lot during cooking, so account for that when deciding portions. 
    What You Gonna Do?
    Grilled octopus is very popular in many cuisines.
    What can you do with octopus? Plenty of dishes. Cook the meat until tender, and stuff it into flaky pastries like this. Fry the cooked meat with potatoes and chorizo for a Spanish-style stir-fry or toss with cooked potatoes to make a polpo e patate. Another salad from italy, more specifically Puglia, mixes together celery, carrot, parsley with cooked pieces. For an Italian-Asian thrill, serve octopus stir fried with sesame oil, mushrooms and basil over angel hair. Speaking of Asian, Korean cuisine has a lot to offer, octopus-wise. Nakji Bokkeum traditionally uses baby octopus to stir fry with veggies and sauces and hot pepper, but tenderized discs of larger tentacles can be used too. For Jjukkumi Gui (Spicy Grilled Baby Octopus), you could use braised meat; marinate for at least 3 hours before the final stage of cooking.
    Grilled octopus is popular also thanks to the myriad marinades, rubs, seasoning etc. each cuisine brings together, an individual footprint embedded in culinary diversity. Combine thyme, lemon, garlic and olive oil for a herby, tangy bath for your prepped fish like this. Or simmer the whole body in white wine with lemon, garlic, wine cork et al, and throw the cooked meat on the grill. Swap the white wine with sherry, and mix together a hot sauce for a Mexican-style Grilled Octopus with Ancho Chile Sauce. To cook with red wine, you could braise the octopus, stewing it with vegetables, and olives
    Octopus, known as makul in Marathi, is quite popular among fishing communities in and around coastal areas in various states in our country. While Indian dishes using this seafood have not made it to mainstream eating out yet, there are plenty of recipes developed around it. Uday Potdar, a medical professional with a passion for everyday local cuisine explains his favourite ways of cooking octopus: “Baby octopus chilly fry—the Goan way; octopus moilee—the Kerala way; octopus koshimbir (salad)—stir-fried octopus with fresh roasted and crushed cumin, a dash of kokum extract, coal-roasted shallots, crushed sea salt, garnished with freshly scraped coconut and chopped coriander”.
    Octopus curry is relished not only in India, but also Jamaica, Seychelles, Mauritius etc.
    You’ll find quite a number of curried octopus dishes in cuisines that have evolved from a backdrop of Indian regional influence. From Jamaica to Seychelles and Mauritius,  they all have octopus curries, with and without coconut milk. There’s even a tandoori octopus recipe that really, more restaurants here look to feature instead of humdrum chicken. A simple way to cook baby octopus is to stir fry it with garlic, lemon and fresh coriander, with a bit of fresh chilli if you wish to up the heat a little. Another way to put up a spicy dish is to toss ground chilli with ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes with the blanched meat. 
    Octopus dishes can be paired with many wines, including most whites, even some light-bodied reds. A fruity Zinfandel will be great with grilled octo, but a Rioja should couple equally well too. Look at a pinot noir to match with an octopus salad, and a viognier with curry.

    It’s All About The Now
    Life is pretty dull if it’s all about reaching out for the known and familiar every time. A little excitement, a tad of thrill on your plate will keep you chugging along splendidly. A tasty adventure is just the ride you need. Go ahead and cross that off your bucket list. 

    About the Author
    An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
    Image Credit: Cover
    Image Credit: Deep Down Inside (the sea)
    Image Credit: In The Raw
    Image Credit: The Long and Short of It
    Image Credit: What You’re Gonna Do?
    Image Credit: Octopus Curry