Monday 20 October 2014

Spicy Seafood For A Romantic Summer Evening

Summer has arrived with a vengeance the last few days. Granted,  is still officially spring. But it is quite warm and the southeaster is blowing us into the next century.

Weather which calls for relaxing with friends and loved ones over a light meal. A braai with meat is OK, but the food tends to be heavy. In addition, we have a regular braai once a week at the yacht club. So a lighter meal is in order.

Which brought me to think more towards a salad. But salads are too light to my taste. Even those with something hot, like pieces of chicken or fish. So the choice went to something Asian. Asian dishes are generally easy and quick to make, as well as being on the light side. Of course, this is just what one wants, as it leaves more time to spend with your close ones.

Having gone through all of this reasoning, I decided on a Thai style seafood curry in a coconut sauce. I had this idea in my mind for a long time. Now, at last, the weather is playing along.

This dish is very easy to make, with hardly any messy work. It also is quick to  make, as the ingredients are not heavy and therefore cooks fast. You don't want to overcook fish anyway. The coconut base makes it quite fruity, which adds to the idea that it can serve as something with more body than a salad, but in the same category of light food.

Try to steer away from using a ready mix seafood. These tend to have more of the cheaper cuts. I settled for mussels and small prawns, with a dash of seafood mix. I was a bit put off with the quality of the mix. Next time I shall buy the ingredients directly and make my own mix.

This dish is prepared by making a sauce, then cooking the fish in this sauce. No need for frying the fish. For the coconut one can use a can of coconut milk, mix powdered coconut with water or even use desiccated coconut soaked for a hour in hot water. All will work.

Having read about the latest Banting craze, I am following suit by using real butter to fry the onions. It does make a difference, not only in the taste. The butter triggers your body's reaction to make you feel satisfied, so you tend to eat less because you feel full sooner.
Which, in my case, is good.

This dish goes very well with a fruity dry sparkling wine, as it is not that spicy. Here in South Africa we are blessed with a variety of bottle fermented sparkling wines at a steal. The La Vallee from JC le Roux and Pongracz  immediately comes to mind as a romantic pairing. We also have some magnificent Sauvignon blanc wines from the Durbanville region, our neighbours. Choose your own, bearing in mind the type of company you will have for dinner.

In my case it is my missus of over thirty-five years' standing, so the JC le Roux la Vallee wins hands down.

As for cooking utensils, I used my new stainless steel saucepan from le Creuset. These have a stainless steel lining inside, a layer of high carbon steel outside to make it magnetic for use on induction hobs, and a layer of aluminium sandwiched in between. This causes better heat distribution and more effective cooking. The pot gets warm on the sides too, unlike some other brands of cookware. This better heat distribution also uses less gas. In fact, a lot less. One needs to be careful of burning the food.

The ingredients are simple and few, which makes it easier to get them all together. I used the canned variety of bamboo sprouts. There are others. Some recipes call for the sour variety, others use the plain bamboo sprouts. It seems not to make a real difference.


500 g seafood, I used a mix of prawns and mussels
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
1 can coconut milk or cream. Or a sachet of coconut powder.
1 medium to large onion, chopped
½ sweet bell pepper, chopped
3 toes garlic, mashed
2 hot chillies, chopped
1 teaspoon medium dry masala
2 teaspoons wet masala (recipe here)
1 dessert spoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 dessert spoons fish sauce
½ cup bamboo sprouts
½ cup sugar snap peas
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
½  cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
4 bay leaves
some butter for frying
salt and pepper to taste


Fry the onions and sweet pepper in the butter until the onion goes translucent. Add the wet masala, chopped chillies and mashed garlic and fry these for thirty seconds. Add the dry powdered spices and fry for fifteen seconds or until the flavours come out. Add the coconut milk and stir, making sure that there is nothing sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

Bring this to the boil, then add the seafood. Add the fish sauce and sugar and check for enough salt. Turn down the gas flame and cook this for ten minutes or until the seafood is almost done, then add the sugar snap peas and the bamboo sprouts. Cook for another five minutes, then take the saucepan off the heat. Add the chopped basil and coriander leaves and mix through. Then set this aside to rest while you cook the rice. This will allow the curry to repose and develop flavour.

Then dish up.

Now is the time to open that second bottle of bubbly...

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-10-20