Seema’s Shrimp and Sweet Corn Curry

New Delhi: My sister Seema has a penchant for following my recipes–and also for changing them to suit her tastes and whims, often with excellent results. This recipe is a prime example. Seema took a recipe for corn curry from my first book, Indian Home Cooking, and substituted coconut milk for the cream. In India, “curry” is a term that is used to describe a saucy dish. As you’ll notice, there is no curry powder in this recipe, or in any of my recipes for that matter.

My sister’s idea worked very well, and in fact, this is now how I make corn curry in the summertime, always using the incredibly sweet Butter and Sugar corn from Pat and Albert Sheldon’s farm, Sheldon Farm in Salem, New York. The Sheldons have been harvesting corn since the mid-1700s and people drive to their farm from all around the north country to buy basketfuls of their famously juicy yet crunchy corn. Use the best corn you can find locally in the summer; in the winter, frozen corn will do. Yes, frozen veggies are perfectly fine, as long as they have nothing else added to them. Eating vegetables is something we all need to do and enjoy. Don’t allow lack of access to fresh veggies to break your will or determination. My life-partner Charlie and I enjoy bowlfuls of deliciously brothy curries with corn and veggies all winter long, and Seema’s curry is a perfect way for us to use corn harvested and frozen in the summer, or, when visiting friends, from the freezer sections in their local markets. This is a bowlful of yumminess that is perennially suitable and comforting.

I buy huge tiger shrimp (also called tiger prawns) from Allen Brothers in Chicago when I have time to plan ahead and I feel like splurging. They are impressively massive, succulent, and sweet, and are a perfect marriage to the rich coconut milk and fresh corn. That said, of course any size shrimp will work. I get incredibly delicious results using grocery store shrimp. Again, use your judgment and be as sustainable in your practices as possible, knowing that sometimes one is allowed to cheat if one is good all other times. Or, feel free to eliminate the shrimp altogether and substitute peas, green beans, or even sliced baby eggplant. Depending on what vegetables you are using, and whether they are fresh or frozen, the cooking time and addition into the sauce will vary.

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Our go-to accompaniment with this delicious corn curry is brown basmati rice. When I am hosting a party, I will use the best aged Basmati rice, jasmine, or sticky sushi rice I have at home in my pantry. Or do what I do when no one is watching and dunk a piece of crusty bread straight into the sauce–heaven!

Make this simple curry, and you will appreciate a brothy bowl full of flavour discoveries that will give you comforting memories and bring you back to your kitchen to cook and share. You will also give you and your family an occasion to cook together before the year ends. I firmly believe that families that cook and eat together, stay healthy and happy together forever.

May this bowlful of Indian cooking bring you joy these last days of 2021 and welcome 2022 on a most delicious note! Happy New Year!

For the herb paste:

40 fresh or 60 frozen curry leaves

3-inch/7.5 cm piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons frozen ground lemongrass paste (optional)

1 bunch cilantro, leafy part and tender stems ripped off of the tough stems

1 jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, and seeded for less heat

For the curry:

3 tablespoons/45 ml canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

15 fresh or 22 frozen curry leaves, roughly chopped

3 dried red chiles

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

2 13.5-ounce/380 g cans coconut milk

1/2 cup/120 ml heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups/615 g fresh corn (from 4 to 6 ears) or frozen corn

2 pounds/907 g tiger shrimp (16 to 20 shrimp per pound), peeled and deveined

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Place the curry leaves, ginger, lemongrass paste (if using), cilantro, jalapeno or serrano, and 3 tablespoons/45 ml water in the bowl of a food processor and puree into a nearly smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat the oil, cumin, and mustard seeds in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cumin browns and becomes fragrant and the mustard seeds pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the curry leaves, chiles, turmeric, and asafetida and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Then stir in the herb paste, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the mixture is very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and the cream, stir, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the salt and then add the corn and shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp curl and are just cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Disclaimer: The author of this opinion article is Suvir Saran, who is a Chef, Author, World Traveller.

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