Masala shrimp pilaf

Shrimp and basmati rice, cooked together with peppers, curry leaves, onions, ginger, garlic and plenty of flavorful spices such as cardamoms, cinnamon, fennel, coriander and cumin and more….in a pressure cooker


It’s one of those cold, dreary and overcast afternoons, this mid-December winters day. There is certainly no dearth of Christmas and holiday cheer about town, once you step out. But I am certainly not in the mood to put on those woolly layers and venture out, this lazy and chilly afternoon. I would rather sit in front of my little personal heater at home, and better still, think of what I’m going to be cooking for dinner tonight 🙂 Since I’m in such an enthusiastic and spirited mood for some culinary adventure, may as well think of something exciting and delicious to dish out for the family tonight! ‘Cause by the end of the week, I’m usually kind of ‘kitchen-ed’ out, dinner outside seems more appealing than eating on my own dining table. I do need a break every now and then from cooking, however much I like it 🙂

A one-pot hearty and comforting rice pilaf or pulao, as we like to call it at home. I generally make my pulaos in a pressure cooker. It’s a time saver, and the consistency also of the rice turns out well. I usually make a delicious pulao, with onions, peas and whole spices, which I can eat just as is, no accompaniments or curries needed. Today, I decide to take it up a notch, by adding shrimp and a dollop of fragrant spices, which I fish out straight from my kitchen masala cabinet. That’s why I call it masala shrimp. Onions, peppers, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, green chillies, shrimp and basmati rice, married with ground spices like fennel, coriander, turmeric, paprika and mace. Not to leave out, whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, peppercorns and cumin, which add a depth of unbeatable flavour to any dish out of an Indian kitchen.

Servings 4

Ingredients :

Shrimps, with shells removed, washed and deveined – 3/4lbs. About 15 medium sized ones.

Basmati rice – 1 cup. Soak the rice in water for an hour.

1 onion, finely sliced

1/2 cup chopped green peppers

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 chillies, de-seed for less heat

6-7 curry leaves

Finely chopped green onions and cilantro, as garnish


Whole spices – 1 bay leaf, 3 cloves, 3 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 small cinnamon stick, a few peppercorns

3/4 tsp. cumin seeds

Water – 2 cups (Always double the quantity of rice)

Cooking oil – 2 tbsp.

Salt, to taste


For the ground spice mix, mix together the following spices 

1 tbsp.coriander powder

1 tsp.fennel powder. I buy fennel seeds, roast them for a couple of minutes in a pan and then grind them. I love the flavor in certain  Indian dishes.

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

3/4 tsp. paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

1/2 tsp.mace powder

Add half the ground spice mix, along with little salt to the shrimp and set aside for an hour.

Soak the rice in water for an hour. Drain and set aside in a colander.

Heat oil in a large pressure cooker over medium high heat. Add the whole spices. Add the onions and sauté till light to golden brown. Add curry leaves, chillies, ginger and garlic. Sauté for a minute. Add cumin seeds. Add the remaining ground spices. Add the rice and shrimp.


Sauté for a minute. Add water. Add salt and stir. At this point, cover the cooker with the lid lightly, do not shut it tight. When the mixture comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Stir once or twice in between. Make sure the rice is still moist and watery, not dry.


Now cover the pressure cooker with lid and on high heat, let one whistle come out. After one whistle, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Release the pressure and open lid.


Garnish with green onions and cilantro. Serve hot.





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