Tonight's meal from Mozambique called for grilled shrimp. No problem! The firepit I dug almost a year ago when I started this project had finally emerged from under a 4 ft. pile of snow, so what better way to welcome spring than to get my grill on. Excited to build my first pyre of the season, I hit the store to pick up some charcoal, even getting a few "atta-girls" from other shoppers impressed with my optimism. But, alas, by the time I got to the register, it was snowing - not just a few flurries, but a good 2-inches falling from the fickle heavens. Hence, sauted shrimp for this dish, rendering it not 100% true to the recipe, but as close as a Massachusetts girl can get to Africa on a snowy March day.
Located in southeastern Africa along the India Ocean, Mozambique borders Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa. Mozambique was colonized by Portugal in 1505, but gained it's independence in 1975 to become The People's Republic of Mozambique. Following it's independence, the country was embroiled in a brutal civil war between 1977 and 1992. Rich in natural resources, Mozambique relies primarily on agriculture, mostly from subsistance operations. Food, beverages, chemical manufacturing as well as aluminum and petroleum production help sustain the country's economy.
Cuisine in Mozambique is heavily influenced by Portuguese traditions. Maize, millet, sorghum and cassava are all used in typical cooking. Lemons, oranges, limes, peppers, chilies, corn, tomatoes, pineapples along with the pepper sauce "piri piri" a hot pepper sauce make for diverse and interesting flavors.
Spiced Mozambique Prawns (Adapted from food.com)
Shells from 2 pounds medium prawns (reserve prawns)
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used "light")
1 tablespoon peanut butter
hot spice, to taste (see below)
2 cups long grain rice
1 cup coconut milk (I used "light")
3 cups water
2 plantains, sliced thin on a diagonal
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. prawns (shelled, reserved from above)
hot spice blend, to taste
Hot Spice Blend
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 pinch cayenne (or to taste)
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch allspice
Prepare Hot Spice Blend: In a small bowl mix together the ingredients. Store extra in an airtight container.
Prepare Sauce: In a medium sauce pan, combine the prawn shells, tomato juice, coconut milk and peanut butter. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Season with some hot spice blend to taste. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then pass it through a sieve; discard the shells.
Prepare Rice: In a large 2-quart saucepan, bring the rice, coconut milk and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Take an occasional peek to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Prepare Plantains: Season the plantains with salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the plantains on both sides until brown and soft, about 3-4 minutes.
Prepare the Prawns: Season the prawns with some hot spice blend and cook them on an oiled grill or grill pan until heated through, about 7-10 minutes.
To Serve: Mound the rice in the middle of a platter (or individual plates), and ladle the sauce around the rice. Arrange the shrimp around the rice, place a plantain between each shrimp and garnish with the peanuts and cilantro.
Final Assessment: Aside from not being able to grill the shrimp for this dish, it was very, very good. The combination of sweet coconut rice, spicy shrimp and tomato & peanut sauce was delicious. Garnished with cilantro and roasted peanuts we all enjoyed this lovely dish.