Ya ya ya, another write up about Spot Prawns. Yes indeed the season is upon us and the little red and white crustaceans are on every menu, food pictures aplenty on social media and commentary galore. Maybe this one will be a bit different. Coast Culinary Collective never wants to hang with the sheep.
Tomorrow we’re off to make a large purchase of our local darlings directly from one of the boats that brings them in. This will probably be the first time in 5 or more years we’ve bought spot prawns. Just could not abide the price. The fact that you could purchase lobster flown in from the East Coast or White Prawns from Argentina for substantially less money than something caught right out front our own doors was a no go. I don’t begrudge fishermen making the most they can plus I’m a firm believer in asking what the market will bear. That said, our fishing industry’s success in selling to foreign markets priced the little guys out of my stratosphere. Supporting local is part of Coast Culinary Collective’s mission, but when the financial cost of doing so exceeds what this local can or should be expected to pay, that ideology is a hard pill to swallow. I’m sure that will raise the temperature of a few people which is not the intent here. CCC doesn’t wish to alienate readers, but rather express a perspective. As such, this is where the situation is tricky and we need to play the devils’s advocate. “Are, or have, prawns ever meant to be a part of our daily diet as opposed to a treat?” No. But in recent years, farmed shellfish from parts of Asia have made it possible to do so quite easily. Of course those prawns have been known to be raised in pools of waste water and harvested by people who are essentially slaves rather than our ocean raised, wild caught prawns.
Unfortunately, Covid has meant key destinations for our catches have come to a stand still and the price of fish and seafood is way down. Estimates are as dire as an 80% decrease. Again, I don’t want to see the livelihoods of fishermen and the retail establishments that sell their catches hurt. Fishing is hard work and getting harder still in a world of ever increasing population. We all know our ocean resources have and continue to be abused. But I’m delighted that I’ll once again be able to dine on the freshest of fresh for far fewer shekels while supporting our local industry.
Now on to what we’re doing that we believe is not the same ole, same ole. To show off Spot Prawns to the max and treat them as if they were still at last year’s market price, we’re going to present a few recipes that use the whole prawn. Nose to tail, errr… antenna to tail.
We’ll be getting live prawns (hence “freshest of the fresh”) and want to make the absolute most of the prawns and the most deliciousness. Here are four recipes all of which are superb and not at all difficult to make. Plus all of the ingredients in each are easily sourced.
First course; Prawn Ceviche. If you like sushi, don’t be squeamish and turn your nose up. You’re on a culinary site after all. This is cooking with acid not heat. It’s simple yet sophisticated and ideal for warmer days. This was taken from one of our favourite recipe resources, Serious EATS and created by Daniel Gritzer.
Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion Recipe
- 1 pound FRESH Spot Prawns head-on shrimp or 12 medium shrimp, shells and heads removed and reserved for another use (see next recipe)
- Sea or kosher salt
- 2 serrano chilies, stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons water
- 4 tablespoons fresh juice from 4 limes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons diced seeded cucumber
- Tostadas and sliced avocado, for serving
- Split shrimp in half lengthwise and discard any veins. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle all over with salt, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, combine chilies with a pinch of salt and pulverize thoroughly, then add water and continue to work until chilies are reduced to tiny bits. Alternatively, blend chilies with water in a blender or with an immersion blender until thoroughly blended. Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
- In a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with chili-lime marinade, onion, and cucumber. Season once more with salt and pepper and serve right away with tostadas and avocado.
What to do with the heads, tails and shells? BISQUE!
“Bisque” has a decidedly posh ring to it and would suggest it must be complicated. Uh uh, not this one. Most people would chuck the heads n shells in the bin or just opt for pre-cleaned prawns. Others might think to make shellfish stock (next up). But this is a brilliant way to use the so-called nasty bits of ocean bugs. And it’s CHEAP! This example comes from Simply Delicious and was created by Alida Ryder.
- 500 g prawn shells and heads
- 1.5 litres chicken/fish stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
- 2 pieces of lemon peel yellow part only
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic cloves crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (caution here; I am not a fan of tomato paste and would reduce it by half. But that’s me)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup cream
- salt & pepper to taste
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1.5 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/2 cup water
- Fresh parsley chopped, to serve (optional)
- Place the prawn shells and heads in a pot and add the stock, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, lemon peel and garlic. Bring up to a boil and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, covered until the stock is well infused by the shells.
- In a separate pot, melt a little butter and fry the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds before adding the smoked paprika, tomato paste and sugar.
- Allow to fry for 30 seconds then pour in the prawn stock with the shells and heads.
- Allow to simmer for 20 minutes then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- When the stock has cooled down, blend, shells and all until the shells are broken up completely. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and then through a sieve lined with muslin once more into a clean pot. This is to make sure there is no grit or sediment in the bisque
- Place the pot over a low heat and allow to come back up to heat. Pour in the cream. If the soup seems too thin at this stage (which it probably will be), whisk in the flour paste and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes until the soup has thickened slightly. You don’t want it to be too thick, it needs to be very ‘soupy’ still but also not watery.
- Season to taste and serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Prawn Shell Stock
I’ve made shellfish stock several times. It’s typically the easiest after fish stock. But I’m including this adaptation from the Great British Chefs as it’s just that much more serious. Still simple to make, just takes a few steps and a bit of time. Great for use in risotto, pasta, Cioppino, Bouillabaisse and numerous other applications.
2 tbsp of oil
1 tbsp of butter
1kg Spot Prawn shells
1 onion, diced
1 small leek, finely sliced
1/2 fennel, finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely sliced
1 small carrot, finely sliced
1/2 garlic bulb, cloves smashed and skin left on
2 tbsp of tomato purée (as mentioned in the previous recipe, CAUTION with this. It can dominate the dish. I’d say half)
200ml white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
tarragon, dill and/or chervil (optional)
- Heat a tablespoon of the oil and the butter in a large stock pot. Add the shells (and any juices that have leaked out of them) and cook over a medium heat for 10–15 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking. The shells should be in one layer on the bottom of the pan to enable proper caramelisation, so work in batches if you need to. If you’re using the heads, use a rolling pin the crush them before adding. Once nicely coloured, transfer the shells to a bowl.
- Deglaze the pan to collect up all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom. Do this by turning the heat up high, then add about 50ml of the brandy. Turn the heat back down and use a spatula to scrape the pan clean. Tip these juices into the bowl of shells
- Add the remaining oil and, once hot, add the chopped vegetables and smashed garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes until caramelised, stirring to avoid any burning (which would impart a bitter flavour)
- Add in the tomato puree and cook out for 2 minutes
- Add the shells back into the pot along with the delicious juices. Pour in the remaining brandy and reduce by half
- Top up with water to about 3cm above the shells. Bring to the boil and then skim off the scum which rises to the top using a ladle
- Add the coriander seeds, bay leaves, thyme and any other herbs you choose to use and simmer the stock uncovered for 2–3 hours. Make sure the stock stays at a gentle simmer rather than a rolling boil, and periodically skim off impurities floating on the surface
- Once ready, place a colander over a large bowl and line with muslin or a thin, clean tea towel. Carefully pour the pan’s contents into the colander. Use the back of a ladle to crush the shells, making sure you extract every last bit of stock
- You can now either return the stock to the pan and reduce further, or chill. The stock will keep for 2–3 days in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months
Easy Grilled Spot Prawns
Last one and still using the whole prawn. Sourced from Bon Appetit, the only drawback with this recipe is it requires Pernod or Ouzo. I say drawback as the only time I like licorice is when it’s a flavour component in food like it is in this recipe. So having to buy a whole bottle of either of those for me isnt overly convenient. That said, they aren’t hugely expensive ($30 for 750ml of Pernod and $24 for Ouzo and the BCLDB) and you can keep them for cooking other dishes down the road. If you’re one of those people who enjoy the special taste, then life is good.
- 2 pounds head- and tail-on Santa Barbara spot prawns or jumbo shrimp
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons Pernod or ouzo
- 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds, divided, plus 1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups (lightly packed) baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Using a small knife or kitchen shears, butterfly shrimp from tail to base of head, leaving peel and head on; devein.
- Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and saute’ until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in Pernod and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper. Add prawns; toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature, tossing occasionally,for 30 minutes.
- Prepare a grill to high heat. Grill prawns, brushing with marinade from bowl, until bright pink and just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Mix sliced fennel bulb and arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons oil over; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange salad on a plate. Top with shrimp, garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped fronds.