This is one of those treasured recipes whose source is not an inanimate book. In fact, aunty Irene is anything but inanimate. She is one of those liveliest, full of energy, really loud grandmothers who has no time for political correctness. She speaks her mind and she speaks it loud and clear. Hidden in this robust personality is a nurturing woman who is generous and welcoming. We were neighbours for decade or so until my family moved to another area. It has been seven years or so since we moved, but I still remember with much fondness all the beautiful memories with her – most of which dealt with food. Aunty Irene loved to cook and more so she loved to share – and when it was prawn cutlets that she had to offer, I was a happy, happy neighbour.
So obviously I jotted down the recipe, I watched her cook it, and eventually it became a recipe we as a family liked to cook too. There is nothing fancy about this recipe, just good, easily available ingredients and simple knife skills – and you have these flavourful cutlets that go so well with rice and curry or even dal. I have tweaked the recipe a bit; I chop the prawns instead of mincing them in the grinder, because it gives a lovely bite and texture. The ginger-garlic paste has been replaced with finely chopped fresh ginger and garlic – because fresh is always better, don’t you agree?
If there was any pro-tip Aunty Irene would offer, I am pretty sure it would be to chop the onion and other ingredients really fine so that it blends well with the prawns. In fact on any given day, when aunty was in good health, you would find her chopping veggies on the dining table. Her doors were always wide open, not figuratively, literally! All our doors in fact; most Indian apartment neighbours keep their houses open, with kids running around and adults occasionally chatting in the gallery. Good cross ventilation too, if you ask me. And of course, the added advantage of knowing what’s cooking in the neighbours house!
So you see this recipe is so much more than just good food, it’s memory – and good one at it. I associate it with love and generosity, and it reinstates how food can bring us together as a community. With this blog entry, I just wish to honour the person who taught me some incredible food (also life) lessons through her humble cooking. Here’s to you Aunty Irene and for the incredible cook you are!
- 2cups chopped prawns
- 6 small garlic, finely diced
- ½ inch ginger, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 medium size onion, finely chopped
- 1 big green chilli, de-seeded and de-veined, finely chopped
- Handful coriander, finely chopped
- ¼tsp Turmeric powder
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1-1.5 cup bread crumbs
- Salt and Pepper
- Chilli flakes
- Make sure prawns are cleaned and de-veined before chopping them in to small bits. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients from the prawns to the lemon juice. If the mix is too wet, add couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs. Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Shape the prawn mix in to 10-12 cutlets.
- In a separate bowl, season the remaining breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and some pepper and chilli flakes (optional). Coat the prawn cutlets with the seasoned breadcrumbs on all sides.
- Cook the prawns cutlets in a hot oiled pan on a medium flame, until they are browned evenly on both sides. Serve the cutlets with rice and curry/dal or as an appetiser with salad.
You can also coat the prawn cutlets with rava (semolina).
To make breadcrumbs: use stale leftover bread that has been hardened. We usually store all leftover breads in the fridge and then grind them into breadcrumbs. You can also use fresh bread. Simply toast the bread completely in a pan or in the oven and pulse them intro crumbs in the grinder.
Prawns don't take a lot of time to cook. Five minutes on each side should be perfectly fine. It will also continue to cook with the residual heat once it is taken off the pan.
To freeze the cutlets, place the uncooked, coated prawn cutlets in a tray/plate (make sure they don't stick to each other), and keep it in the freezer for an hour or so. Once the cutlets have frozen, transfer them into a ziploc bag or container and place it back in the freezer. It should remain good for a month, but best to use it within two weeks.
You can also freeze these cutlets and keep them ready for a quick dinner. Check the recipe notes for more details.