At the Desk Gourmet pt.2: Coconut-Chili Shrimp with Roasted Vegetable Rice

My office is laid out in such a way that my desk faces a wall and the only window in the room is small, high-up and 10 yards behind me as I face my computer. This is hardly a feng-shui arrangement of light and furniture, and given that my monitor faces the interior of the room so everyone can see what I’m doing, it doesn’t guarantee many moments in which I can idly surf the net or shoot off personal e-mails either. You should also know that there is rarely, if ever, any office banter at work, making for an even more sterile atmosphere. Basically, what I’m saying is that, the way my work space is configured and the general atmosphere there is good for my employer, but bad for me.

The point of bringing this up, though, was not to provoke an outpouring of pity from you, as I’m sure many of you also work in dreadful places, confined all day to a cubicle, on a squeaky chair with no access to even the most inoffensive websites, but rather to explain why, when I return to my desk from the kitchen with my lunch everyday, I have to walk past everyone else.

As I stroll past these folk, happy that I shall soon be enjoying a hot, delicious meal, they often stare mournfully at me, sniffing the air like tom-cats in heat, before gazing pitifully upon the damp and insipid sandwich they just paid $8 for. Sometimes, they will inquire what it is I am carrying because it smells so good. At other times, they’ll half-stand-up to peer at my plate. I feel their envy, and yes, it feels good.

Because, apart from having had the patience and, to a small degree, the imagination and skill to make an interesting and delicious meal for myself the night before, and boxing up the left-overs to bring in, I did nothing that they could not. And it is this, I am sure , that irks them most.

This week, it was grilled coconut milk and chilli marinated shrimp (a recipe riffing off one found in Steven Raichlen’s BBQ University cookbook for Brazilian-style shrimp skewers) and roasted vegetable rice. This dish is more expensive to make than the last “At the Desk Gourmet” because of the 2lbs of shrimp, but for a total ingredient purchase price of $41.36, we fed seven adults and had enough rice leftover for two other meals. And, at a shade under $6/head, even if my colleagues weren’t eying my lunch jealously, it would still be good value to me!

Here’s how to do it:


2lbs of 26-32 shrimp, shells on, but split down the back
1 can coconut milk
2 medium-sized red cayenne peppers, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
8 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves/storks, roughly chopped
Juice of 3 limes
1/2lb long grain white rice
1 cube chicken bouillon dissolved in 1.5 pints boiled water
1 large onion, halved, grilled, then sliced
2 large bell peppers, roasted whole, then sliced
4 medium round tomatoes, roasted whole, skinned, then sliced
2 green/spring onions, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 package of wooden/bamboo skewers

Put shrimp, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, chopped cayenne peppers, 4 tbsp of the chopped cilantro, half the lime juice and the whole can of coconut milk in a large, non-reactive bowl to marinate for at least an hour, but no more than three hours.
In the meantime, soak your bamboo/wooden in water. I often use a vase for this.

Then, saute the remaining two cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil until tender before adding the rice. Saute rice until it begins to color, but only a little, before pouring in enough hot chicken stock to cover the rice by about an inch and half. Cover and bring to a boil. Set timer for ten minutes.

Put the tomatoes, bell peppers and halved onion on a hot grill. Keep turning tomatoes and peppers on grill until blistered all over. Onion will take longer to cook all the way through.

Place tomatoes and peppers in paper bag and let sit for 10 minutes, then remove the skins, and chop into whatever sized chunks/strips you like best.

When oven timer beeps, turn down flame under rice to low and set timer for another ten minutes.

Thread shrimp on the skewers and pre-heat grill to med-high.

When oven timer beeps again, switch off flame, but do not look at the rice. Keep covered for a further ten minutes.

Grill shrimp until deliciously pink and firm.

Stir in roasted vegetables, scallions and the remaining cilantro into the rice, and squeeze in the rest of the lime juice.

If you have it, and if not, you should seek it out, Jamaican Choice Papaya Hot Sauce is the perfect condiment for this dish. Otherwise, any fruit-based spicy salsa or sauce would work well. Enjoy!

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