Friday, May 6, 2011

Spicy Prawns with Okra

 Bureaucracy – I have been affected by that recently so I wanted to write about it.  I have Indian nationality and in summer I have to fly 1 hour transit through Heathrow (London) on my way to India.  I know some countries require you to have a visa even for transit, which I respect.  And of course I have a permanent residence permit in Belgium, not to mention my husband and two children have British Nationality.  So, how difficult would it be for the British Consular section to issue a visa for me?

Things are not as easy as they seem.  There is no consular section of the British Embassy in Belgium.  This has been outsourced to Worldbridge which is based in an alley in Paris, France.   So, I board the train from Midi to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  Once I reach there, I take two other trains and one metro to reach the place where I am to make my visa application.  I have all my documents along and my appointment set.  When I approach the gates, I am greeted by a huge African guard who tells me I have to wait in the line – appointments do not count apparently.  So anyway, I was seated on the chair along with tens of others and after a good hour, I was summoned to this lady who checked my application and picture and then gave me a number and ushered me to another room with more chairs and even more people. 

Luckily I found some to chat with who was from INSEAD.  So at least there was my time-killer because it was another hour before I was summoned to another counter to submit my documents – my old and new passports, my birth and marriage certificates, passports of my husband and children and our pay slips – everything in original and copy.  The person behind the counter even advised me to fly Emirates next time so I do not need to use BA with its delays and visa problems.  After submitting all the documents, and another 30 minutes later, I was taken for the biometric data and informed that it would be 5 to 10 working days before I would hear from them.  If I wanted to call them, this would cost me 14 USD a minute.  So, I got back on the metro and the two trains and then back to Brussels in the Thalys hating the bureaucracy and the system even more.  I am from India remember – I am used to bureaucracy – but this was much worse than that…that too from a country like the United Kingdom.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

4 tablespoons corn oil
225 grams okra, washed, dried and left whole
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2” piece fresh root ginger, crushed
1 green chilli, cut diagonally
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
6 curry leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
450 grams king prawns, peeled and de veined
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Juice of two lemons
Salt to taste


  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook the okra on a fairly high heat until they are slightly crisp and browned on all sides.  Remove from the oil and keep aside on a piece on kitchen paper.  
  2. In the same oil, gently cook the garlic, ginger, chillies, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds for 3 minutes.  
  3. Add the prawns and mix well.  Cook until the prawns are tender.  
  4. Add the salt, sugar, lemon juice and cooked okra.  
  5. Increase the heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring gently to prevent the okra from breaking.  Adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Serve hot.  

Tip:  Okra should be cooked rapidly to prevent the pods from breaking up and releasing distinctive thick, sticky liquid.  Try to buy firm brightly coloured pods – large pods may be tough or fibrous.

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