Wednesday 7 December 2016

Recipes: Prawn stars

Published 24/01/2010 | 05:00

Alan Davidson, in his most detailed book, Seafood: A Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook, described Dublin Bay prawns as small little lobsters. They are also called Norway lobsters or scampi.

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They are found in the Atlantic from Iceland to Morocco, and in the Mediterranean. They are also fished, not from Dublin Bay itself, but off the east coast of Ireland, where they are plentiful, and also around the north-west coast of Scotland. They live in burrows, at a depth of 10-500m, and they only leave them to mate or feed, usually at dawn or dusk, or on nights with a full moon. With its slender body and long, slim, pincer-like claws, which are almost the same length as its body, the Dublin Bay prawn is quite elegant. When they're very fresh, Dublin Bay prawns have an attractive, if slightly sweet, flavour -- this is often lost when they have been frozen.

The part of the prawn that is usually eaten is called the tail but, in fact, it is more than that -- it is the lower half of the body. If you buy them whole, raw and in their shell, most recipes will require you to peel and de-vein the prawns. This is not difficult but, as Indian cookery guru Madhur Jaffrey suggests, make yourself comfortable while you do so!

To peel, cut the head off each prawn, then pull off the legs that dangle from the belly side. Next, peel the shell from the body. It will come off in wide rings. Pull off the tail, or leave on if you wish.

If no vein is visible, that is OK. If it is visible, to remove it, make a shallow incision along the length of the prawn where the backbone would be if the prawn had one, all the way from the head end to the tail. Then rinse in plenty of cold water and drain well. If necessary, pat dry.

To cook prawns if they're unpeeled and raw, put them in plenty of salted water, and as soon as the water returns to the boil, test a prawn to see if it's cooked. The blue-gray flesh will have turned a pinkish-white. Also, when they're cooked, prawns usually rise to the surface. If the prawns are shelled, the prawn tails should be cooked in the same way. Be careful not to overcook them, as they will become tough and tasteless. If you're cooking a large amount of prawns, don't cook them all at one time as it will take too long for the water to return to the boil.

Dublin Bay prawns are very good if they're eaten simply cooked, with a mayonnaise-type dressing. Dublin Bay prawns can be interchanged with other types of prawns in any recipe. There are many varieties of prawns and most are interchangeable in recipes.

Using raw prawns in some recipes rather than precooked ones can add to the flavour, but cooked prawns can be used in most recipes.

AROMATIC PRAWNS

This clever recipe is excellent for preparing in advance, ready to pop into the oven when you're ready to eat. The fragrant seeds and spices add a wonderful, aromatic flavour to the prawns without overpowering them. Serves 4.

You will need:

Butter for greasing

450g (1lb) large, raw Dublin Bay prawns, peeled and de-veined

Good pinch each of dill seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley

Good pinch each of cayenne pepper, ground allspice and ground cloves

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crusty bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5.

Butter four small, individual ovenproof dishes, and place equal quantities of the raw, peeled, de-veined prawns in each one.

In a small frying pan, heat the dill seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes until they become fragrant. Tip them into a mini blender, or a food processor, and blend to a fine powder.

Next, add in the finely chopped onion and garlic, the flat-leaf parsley and the pinches of cayenne pepper, ground allspice and ground cloves. Add the white wine vinegar to the mixture, and then pour in the olive oil gradually, buzzing in the processor until the mixture binds together. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour this mixture over the prawns and leave until you are almost ready to serve. Bake, just before serving, in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until it's lightly golden. Serve with crusty bread .

SPAGHETTI WITH PRAWNS AND ROASTED RED PEPPERS

Use raw prawns for this recipe if you can get them, as the flavour will be better. But the frozen, cooked ones can be used also -- make sure you thaw them first. Serves 4.

You will need:

2 red peppers

450g (1lb) spaghetti

45ml (3 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic

50g (2oz) pine nuts

1 medium-hot red chilli, finely sliced and deseeded (optional)

225-350g (8-12oz) raw or cooked Dublin Bay prawns, peeled and de-veined

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

175ml (6fl oz) fresh cream or 1 large glass wine, reduced (see note)

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Squeeze of lemon juice

Note:

If you're using a large glass of wine, put it into a little saucepan and simmer it briskly to reduce by at least a third -- doing this cooks off the alcohol, and consequently it tastes better.

Roast the red peppers under the grill or over an open flame until the skin is charred on all sides. Put on a plate and cover with a bowl or some foil to keep the steam in. Allow the peppers to cool. After about 20 minutes, take the peppers out and scrape off the charred skin. Cut them in half, discarding the stalk, the core and the seeds. Cut them into 2cm (¼in) squares.

While you are making the sauce outlined below, cook the spaghetti in a big saucepan of boiling, salted water. As soon as it is al dente, or bite-tender, drain it and add the sauce.

To make the sauce, put the extra-virgin olive oil and the finely chopped garlic in a large, wide pan and fry over a medium heat. Add the pine nuts, and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the finely sliced, deseeded, medium-hot red chilli, if you're using it. Add in the prawns -- cooked prawns will take one minute, while raw praws will take two minutes. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the roasted peppers and add the cream or the reduced wine, whichever you're using. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Toss everything together well. Serve at once, sprinkled with chopped flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

PRAWN CURRY

This prawn curry recipe has Thai influences. Serves 2 as a main dish.

You will need:

1 red chilli, cut into quarters lengthways

1 small red onion, chopped

2.5cm (1in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)

1-2 teaspoons red curry paste

250g (9oz) raw Dublin Bay prawns, peeled and de-veined

175ml (6fl oz) coconut milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze lime juice, to serve

Chopped fresh coriander, to serve

Boiled basmati rice, to serve

In a food processor, buzz the quartered chilli, the chopped red onion and the fresh peeled and chopped root ginger with three tablespoons of water. You may need to scrape down the sides of the processor occasionally to get everything blended. Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy wok or pan. When it's hot, toss in the black mustard seeds, if you are using them, and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the chilli, onion and ginger paste you prepared earlier, turn down the heat and cook the mixture for a minute or so, making sure it doesn't colour. If it begins to stick, add a little water. Add the red curry paste. Stir for a few seconds, and then add in the raw, peeled de-veined prawns, stirring everything together. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a few minutes until the prawns are cooked and until everything is piping hot. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. To serve, squeeze in some lime juice and sprinkle with some chopped fresh coriander. Serve with boiled rice.

CREAMED PRAWNS

A speedy recipe using raw or cooked prawn tails. Serves 2.

You will need:

40g (1½oz) butter

175g (6oz) raw or cooked Dublin Bay prawns, peeled and de-veined

1 small glass brandy

150ml (¼pt) fresh double cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

Squeeze lemon juice

Boiled rice, to serve

Heat the butter in a pan. If you are using raw prawn tails, add them in and cook for about two minutes. If you're using cooked prawn tails, add them in and heat for about one minute. Pour in the glass of brandy, light it with a match as soon as it is warm and stand back!

Shake the pan so the flames spread out -- this burns off the alcohol. When the flames die down, add in the fresh double cream and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, the pinch of nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer for a minute or two until warm. Serve with boiled rice.

L

Sunday Independent

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