Stock tamarind, curry paste for fast shrimp curry

Pantry staples transformed seasonal vegetables and canned chickpeas into a warming Indian curry, featured in my most recent podcast.

The meat-free dish was perfect for hosting a vegetarian friend for lunch. It also gave me the flexibility to use up some garden stragglers and other leftovers.

But what about those days when a bit more protein is in order? Like chana masala, this curry builds on the concept of using pantry staples and adapting to incorporate more vegetables. But it pumps up the flavor profile of shrimp with coconut milk and tamarind paste.

The latter is becoming more readily available. Find several types at Medford’s Asia Grocery Market. The slightly less concentrated tamarind liquid stocked there also is carried on the Asian-foods aisles of many supermarkets, including Medford’s Food 4 Less.

Tamarind adds a sweet-tart note that’s essential to many Thai and other Southeast Asian recipes. It’s also widely used in southern Indian cooking.

And as I suggested in my podcast, curry paste could be substituted for the roster of ground spices listed here. To heighten the flavor and texture of the finished dish, use a portion of the fresh garlic and ginger.

Coming together in mere minutes, this recipe requires more effort to clean shrimp than for any other task. If you buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined, the dish almost makes itself. If, like me, you prefer to buy raw, shell-on shrimp, make sure to save the shells (stash them in the freezer) for distilling into homemade seafood stock.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp Curry

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated to a pulp

2 tablespoons coriander seeds (or 1 1/2 tablespoons ground)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk, well-stirred

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon tamarind paste (or 2 tablespoons honey, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

1 pound peeled and deveined, medium-sized, uncooked shrimp

In a bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups water with the cayenne pepper, paprika, turmeric, garlic and ginger. Mix well. Grind the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and add to mixture, or add ground coriander and cumin.

Place spice mixture into a pan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, salt, tamarind paste (or honey and lemon juice) and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they turn opaque and are just cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from “Flavors of India,” by Madhur Jaffrey.

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