FEASTING ON THE FRUIT OF THE SEA
Believe it or not, even our earliest forefathers (or mothers) had good taste and were eating prawns and other exotic seafood during the middle ages! It’s something of a surprise, then, that many home cooks avoid preparing seafood simply because they think it is far too complicated. They leave it for the restaurants and then avoid it because the prices are often quite high.
But, take it from me, prawns are quick and easy to prepare. In a season here we’ve over indulged on roasts and Christmas fare, often spent far too long in the kitchen and simply want light and tasty meals, these no nonsense dishes are perfect.
As this is also the season to enjoy great fresh fruit, I’ve included both the fruits of the soil and the fruits of the ocean.
COMING CLEAN ABOUT PRAWNS
Cleaning prawns is quite tedious, especially if you are serving them on a large scale for a function. I often think back to one Vodacom July, when my staff and I cleaned over 900 prawns. I admit that I didn’t eat prawns for quite some time after that!
Which brings me to a safe shortcut – purchase some flash frozen king prawns, cleaned and deveined. They’re readily available in most supermarkets, fish sops and even delis – just make sure that they are responsibly sourced and you’re good to go.
Let your prawns thaw for about an hour. It is easier to take the shells off when they are still a tad frozen. For these dishes, keep the tails on. After you have deshelled your prawns, let them rest in the fridge for at least a half an hour when you will be ready to utilise them.
THE PRAWN PANTRY
Because all of these prawn dishes are quite similar, here is a collective list of what you will require.
Once you have collected
everything you need. I can talk you through the individual dishes …
Good flash frozen king prawns, tail on, cut and deveined
Japanese angel hair rice noodles
tempura batter mix
P.S. Activated charcoal is not from Newcastle, but from positively charged, charred coconuts, so I guess that it is still, technically, a fruit.
1 quart of Hansa Pilsner
3 tangerines or plums
some activated charcoal
sweet chilli sauce
sweet and sour sauce – try Mrs Balls new range
200 grams of unsalted butter
salt and pepper
fresh spring onion
some seaweed /dried nori (from SUN SUN Chinese supermarket)
irritated sweet basil
PINK BLACK GIANTS
Yes, we’ve all heard of black tiger giants and small pink tails, but today we’re going to make pink black giants – quite a delicate process, but worth it!
Step by step, I’m going to take your taste buds for an ocean-gasm. This is the classic prawn, prepared in a new age way, Japanese style, not just with lemon and herb dressing but with real healthy pairing, seasonal fruit.
In a mixing bowl, add 2 cups of soda water, some tempura flour mix, then add some fish spice and whisk till you have a pancake type of mix – not too thick, or watery.
Now for the tricky part – add about 2 tablespoons of powdered activated charcoal and dip your prawns holding on to the tail. Remember that you want to keep it pink, not completely black!
Gently rest Your prawns on a grid, ready to deep fry.
Heat up your palm oil to 170 degrees. It has a very high boiling point, so take note.
Break the angel hair noodles with your hand and sprinkle some on the prawns. Then slam dunk the balance into the oil until golden brown. Using a spatchela, remove the noodles, strain and rest aside. Now it is time to deep fry your prawns – for only three minutes!
When plating, rest your prawns on your crispy noodles, drizzle with some sweet chilli sauce and some lemon or lime juice and garnish with some fresh apple wedges. This is a lovely, crisp, colourful colourful summer snack bomb… and, trust me, you will impress ‘the judges’ and your family.
DRUNKEN BEER BATTERED PRAWNS
If you don’t want go to the dark side, I have an alternative.
To simplify this dish, just change your batter mix. Do exactly as you did with the previous dish, but omit both the charcoal and the soda and replace these with some classic good old fashioned beer.
You can serve this dish with some sweet and sour sauce and a touch of ginger.
A little side line humour…one of my top seafood chefs convinced me to only use Hansa Pilsener. She would not make my batter without it. So, I had to buy a case at a time, convinced that she either loved the beer (highly likely) or had some secret to which I was definitely not privy. To this day, apparently it’s still a secret – maybe the Czar’s hob – but, alas, she got me hands down…
PAN FRIED PRAWNS WITH SEASONAL LITCHIES
This time round, we are getting away from the palm oil and, instead, butting up those prawns with some good cholesterol. It is a colourful combination of crustaceans and seasonal fruit and, even though it is essentially quite simple, it is really a taste that is quite simply out of this world.
To prep this dish, you need to use your cleaned prawns and, in mixing bowl, add some grapeseed oil, fish spice, salt and pepper, fish sauce, some lemon juice and sweet basil. Mix your prawns in the bowl, heat up your sauce pan to medium heat, and fry them for two minutes on each side until golden brown. Let them rest while you char your pitted litchis in their own juice.
When your two main elements are at room temperature, you can assemble them on your skewer and get ready to plate up.
Garnish with a drizzle of soy and a dollop or two of sweet chilli sauce and then salt and pepper for seasoning.
Eight minutes and you have your meal done!
NECTARINE GRILLED PRAWNS
Last but not least, here’s another prawn inspired dish that may be very simple but will definitely leave a sweet taste in your mouth! It is full of colour and fresh flavour.
This time round, you only require two ingredients – and some flavour some add ons. This dish is served at room temperature so, for those summer days, you can feast in less than 10 minutes.
Pan fry your prawns just like the previous dish. But wait – just before you serve them up on your halved nectarines – flambé your fruit with a white spirit of your choice, keeping the spirit of the festive season alive. Then, top your fruit with some pickled ginger and some creamy mayo and add some seedless grapes on the side … and don’t get the fennel…. EVER.
PRAWNS WITH A POP
Crustaceans are quite sweet, so a cold pinot noir or any other dry white wine of your choice that is chilled to perfection for a hot summers day will be a good pallet cleanser. You can even try a crisp and dry bubbly. Alternatively, if you want to keep the spirits high, try a good old sake / Japanese rice wine, to round off the dish completely.
So, cheers … or in Japanese, kampai!