So the other day I was reading about tamales, as all normal people do in their free time, and I was totally intrigued by Caribbean tamales. Apparently, in Trinidad and Tobago, a Christmas tamale is stuffed with the unlikely mixture of raisins, capers, and meat (I found this information on the omniscient website Wikipedia). In awe of this crazily innovative concoction, I decided to make some Caribbean-ish style food. Seeing as I was not in the mood to actually make tamales and was instead craving seafood, I settled on the following shrimp and squash mixture. My European roommates balked at the idea, but I knew it would turn out since I’ve eaten squash and shrimp together at many a Filipino get-together. Serves 3-4. Ready in about 60 minutes.
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil (if you happen to have this in your pantry. If not, substitute with vegetable or even olive oil)
- 1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (for ginger lovers like me, feel free to add more)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cooked, cubed butternut squash (about four cups/560g cubed squash)
- 1/2 large green bell pepper (aka paprika), thinly sliced
- 300g/2/3 lb. large, fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup/35g), chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish, if desired)
- Juice from 1/2 lime, about 2 tablespoons
- Dried chili flakes, cayenne pepper, or other spicy things, to taste (optional)
Dealing with unwieldy squashes:
There are two ways to deal with unwieldy squashes or pumpkins. You can either chop and peel them before you cook them (a somewhat tedious process) or you can chop and peel them after you cook them. I opt for the second option because I don’t trust my knife skills on such unwieldy gourds. To do this:
- Wash the squash’s skin to get any dirt off.
- Cut off the amount that you need. For this recipe, I cut the butternut squash in half crosswise and used the top half.
- Cut off the ends and slice it lengthwise. You’ll end up with two halves that should fit perfectly into a big pot.
- If necessary, scoop out the seeds with a spoon
- Fill the pot with about 2-3 inches/5-7 cm of water and bring it to a boil.
- Put the squash in skin-side down, cover, and reduce the heat. It’s ok if the squash isn’t completely submerged in water, in fact, it’s even better. It’ll cook because of the steam but won’t get mushy.
- Let it gently boil for about 20-30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.
- Remove the squash and, cut side down, use your knife to peel and chop the squash into cubes. It’ll be a lot easier to handle, but a lot hotter. Don’t burn your fingers.
Dealing with less unwieldy shrimp:
Buy big, beautiful, fresh shrimp if you can. The ones I got still had the tails, legs, and shells on them. Since I’m a lazy eater, I peeled and cleaned them completely before cooking. To do this:
- Peel off the legs.
- Starting from where the head was, peel the shell off completely. If the head is still on, break it off. You can reserve the heads and shells for making fish stock if they don’t gross you out.
- With the back of the shrimp facing you, slice lengthwise down the middle from the tail to the head side about 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm deep. Slightly peel it apart.
- At this point, you may notice a clear vein running lengthwise down the shrimp. Often, it may be filled with a dark brown or black substance. This clear vein is the shrimp’s intestine and, unless you like eating shrimp poo, I suggest you remove it. If the vein is totally clear and you can’t find it, don’t worry about it. Once that’s finished, we’re good to go!
Here’s a very informative video from allrecipes.com on peeling and deveining shrimp if y’all are visual learners: http://allrecipes.com/video/24/how-to-peel-and-devein-shrimp/detail.aspx
The actual recipe!
- Saute the garlic and ginger in coconut or vegetable oil.
- Add in the curry powder, thyme, and paprika and cook for another minute or two. This infuses the oil with the spices’ flavors.
- Add in the bell pepper slices and fry for 3-5 minutes
- Add in the previously cooked squash and cook for another minute or so.
- At this point, the pan may be a little dry. Add in about 2-3 inches of water (5-8 cm) to the pan along with the green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the water has cooked off and the squash is a little mushy.
- In the meantime, boil the shrimp in water (3-5 minutes for small-medium shrimp, 5-7 minutes for medium shrimp, 7-8 minutes for large shrimp or prawns). When they’re done, they’ll be a bright pink-orange color. Drain.
- Add the shrimp to the squash mix. Adjust any seasonings and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- Serve over rice and black beans with fried plantains, sliced avocado, or salsa fresca. Garnish with the reserved cilantro leaves.
- Try adding coconut milk instead of water in step 5 for a more soupy, curry-ish mix.
- Try with fish instead of shrimp. Or vegetarian perhaps?
- Substitute pumpkin or other types of squash instead of butternut