Prawns are always available here in Ibiza and whether they are fresh or frozen, cost 10€ or 100€, it is lovely to consistently be able to get hold of them. For the recipe below, use mid-range priced prawns, as the very high quality ones should really only be eaten a la plancha (meaning grilled) with salt.
*An aside: for anyone who has not tried the Ibiza red prawns, I suggest you do. If you get hit by a bus before you have tried these singularly excellent creatures, you will have lived and died in vain.I have a lovely cookbook by Paula Wolfert called The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. There are lots of slow cooked recipes, as you’d expect, but the book is more about just taking time over cooking and doing things right.
Today I cooked a version of her recipe for prawns in an orange marinade with shallot and parsley butter to finish. Orange and prawns is ostensibly an odd mix but works beautifully if you get the orange right. A bit of orange zest in a prawn bisque, for instance, will endow it with hidden charms. Too much and it will ruin it. Completely ruin it.
The grilled endives add another dimension – the bitterness countering the sweetness of the prawns is superb, but not to everyone’s taste. But then again, if your guests don’t like it you can always ask them to leave and eat it yourself.
Ingredients (serves 2)
12 prawns in their shells
2 cloves of garlic
100g unsalted butter
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
2 endives cut into eighths lengthways
Zest the orange and squeeze the juice of one half into a pan along with the lemon juice, crushed garlic, black pepper and olive oil. Heat it gently and when the garlic has cooked a little take it off the heat and cool it completely.
To get the marinade to penetrate the flesh of the prawn, to go all the way shall we say, stick the pointy edge of a pair of scissors into the space between where the head stops and the body starts on the upper side of the prawn. Snip down and then slightly open up the shell with your fingers. Pull out the dark digestive tract. Once the marinade is cool put the prawns into it and, as Fergus Henderson says, let them get to know each other. Ideally this will be for at least an hour.
Into a bowl big enough to hold it all, add the shallots, parsley and butter and work them together with a wooden spoon.
About 25 minutes before eating, grill the endive without oil in a ridged griddle pan. Remove it to a serving dish, flick it with salt, splash it with balsamic and olive oil and keep it warm in a low oven.
Pour the prawn marinade into a good pan and get it hot. Then add the prawns and cook them quick. You must not overcrowd the prawns in the pan so do it in batches if necessary. You must not over cook the prawns either or the flesh will become mushy. A couple of minutes will do it. Take them from the pan and add them to the endive leaving any juices that remain in the pan.
Stir in the butter and shallot mixture and cook until shallots have softened.
Pour over the prawns and eat immediately. Marvel at the bitterness of the grilled endive, the sweetness of the orange and the smoothness of the buttery shallots. Delightful.