The term "bhuna" is used to describe a method of cooking spices "dry" - which means only in oil - and no other moisture. So, effectively it's about cooking with very little water. For those of you who follow these recipes - you will notice that tinned tomatoes (chopped) is used quite frequently as the base to the "sauce" used to cook many dishes. In a bhuna you don't create a sauce as such - but you might garnish the end-dish with finely chopped tomatoes to add some moisture.
- Small packet of button mushrooms
- Small packet of already-cooked and peeled tiger prawns - 200g packet
- Two large onions (you need a lot of onion for a bhuna)
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes (for the garnish at the end)
- The usual chunks of garlic, ginger and chile from your freezer (thawed by 30 second zap in the microwave)
- Plenty of chopped fresh (or frozen) coriander
- 1.5 teaspoons of turmeric
- 2 heaped teaspoons of garam masala
- 2 heaped teaspoons of ground coriander (dhaniya)
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin powder
- A generous squirt of concentrated tomato purée from those toothpaste-style tubes they come in (sorry it's not in the picture)
Now heat on medium flame a couple of tablespoons of your favourite vegetable oil in a medium sized pot or pan.
First of all - chop the onions - and just as a reminder to those who are new to Indian-style cooking - the traditional way to chop onion (or indeed any vegetable or fruit) is to first chop the peeled onion in half - and then gripping the half-onion in the palm of one hand - (arm stretched out over a pot with some hot oil in it) and a sharp knife in your other hand - you place the edge of the knife on the furthest-awayflat edge of the half-onion in your hand - and you draw the knife towards you as one thin slice of half-onion cuts off and drops into the pot and starts sizzling straight away. You keep doing this manouvre until there is no onion left in your hand. You have to see this technique in action to believe it - it's quite amazing and looks really dangerous - but it's how generations of Indians have been taught to chop vegetables - straight into the pot. None of this messing about with chopping boards, worktops and careful slicing with the knife!
Anyway - each of the half-onion slices will break up into thin slivers (the layers of the onion coming apart) in the pot as they are cooked until browned. Stir occasionally to ensure that the onions don't burn. when the onions have browned - then add the pulped garlic, ginger and chillie. be careful about the amount of chillie you use in this dish - because we are only using 200g of tiger prawns (shrimps) and a small packet of mushrooms - this is really only enough for two people - so don't overdo it with the chillie unless you want it to turn out really fiery and hot - which is actually how i like this dish anyway.
Whilst the pot is cooking - chop the button mushrooms in half - and also deseed the ripe tomoatoes and chop them finely. Stick the chopped tomato in the fridge - as this will be used for the garnish at the end - perfect "cool" accompaniment to a fiery hot and dry dish.
Then add the ground/dried spices as per the measurements in the list above. Stir it all around - and you will notice that the pot is now very dry. Keep stirring so that the powdered spices don't stick to the base of the pan - turn the heat down a little too. The idea is to let the spices roast for a while - say a few minutes.
To give yourself a little relief at this point - squeeze some of the tomato purée concentrate from the tube into the pot as well. Make sure the purée is stirred around thoroughly too. This is to slightly moisten the dry mixture - and also add a really small amount of water as well if it really is very dry. The tomato purée also adds some deep red colour to the mixture in the pot.
After a couple of mins pour the half-mushrooms into the pot and stir thoroughly. Turn up the flame a bit - and stick the lid on the pot. The mushrooms will soften in the steam - and will release more moisture - which will soften them even more. When they are soft - the dish is practically done. So you might want to switch off the flame and cover the pan completely at this point if you are not ready to serve yet. e.g. you might be preparing dinner for later or making some rice etc. It's important NOT to put the prawns (shrimps) in until the very last minute - as cooked prawns are already cooked (duh) and will only get hard and chewy if cooked even more.
When you're ready - just warm up the mushroom/onion mixture in the pan and stir in the cooked prawns (shrimps) until they are heated. Serve up on a bed of basmati rice - and garnish with coriander leaf and top with the finely chopped tomato. Enjoy!
Recipe by Route 79 Edit
From London: By a British, European, 2nd-Generation Indian. Probably confused - but proud to be them all! Half of my journey to and from work is a 20-30 minute bus ride: London Bus Route 79 - between Alperton in West London and Kingsbury in North West London. I very frequently get pissed-off and frustrated waiting around in the DARK, WET and COLD - waiting for the 79 to turn up. But I have to be eternally grateful for the quality thinking time I get to myself.