Few people with a taste for seafood would pass up the opportunity to indulge themselves in a feast of fresh prawns. These little fellows can quickly become addictive. There is an endless variety of ways to cook and serve prawns and they always give an impression of good taste.
The first thing to decide when it comes to choosing prawns is your budget. The decadent Dublin Bay prawn, or langoustine, is unarguably at the top of the food chain. This prawn is distinguished by its hard shell and slender pinchers. There is a lot of preparation work involved with this species and peeling them requires a fair amount of practice. It is possible to buy Dublin Bays ready shelled, but the cost can often be prohibitive.
A simple way to prepare whole langoustines is as follows: With a sharp knife cut lengthways along the top side of the tail section of the prawn. This will facilitate the removal of the shell after cooking.
For an impressive Dublin Bay prawn starter or snack try the following.
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
0.25 glass of white wine
1kg Dublin Bay prawns with backs opened.
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Heat a thick based pot, when hot pour in white wine, straight away add prawns, butter, and garlic. Cover pot with lid and allow to steam for five to 10 minutes or until prawns are cooked.
When cooked squeeze in the juice of the lemon and toss in the chopped parsley.
Serve straight away with a cool glass of white wine and some crusty French bread to mop up the juice.
Next best is the cold water shrimp, or common prawn, which is caught along the west coast of Ireland mainly in winter months. This shrimp has a superb flavour and is often served cold with a little homemade mayonnaise. Also the preparation work is considerably easier due to the easily peeled soft shell. If you are lucky enough to live close to a small coastal harbour such as Barna in Galway, try getting to know some of the fishermen — they might be willing to sell some of their freshly landed catch.
To cook a meal of peeler shrimp with a mayonnaise type sauce called Aïoli, also know as ailloli, try the following.
1kg common shrimp
3 garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
200ml very good cold pressed olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper.
With a mortar and pestle pound the garlic to a pulp; add the egg yolk and salt and pepper. While still pounding slowly pour in olive oil to form a smooth mayonnaise type texture.
Place aside. Note this sauce uses fresh uncooked egg, so serve within 10 minutes of making.
For the prawns, simply boil a large pot of water, place the prawns in the pre-boiled water, and cook for four or five minutes. When cooked, cool down straight away in iced water.
To serve simply pile the prawns on a serving plate accompanied with the ailloli sauce, a couple of lemons cut in half, and dig in.
The tiger or king prawn, although not native to Ireland, is now by far the most available. This prawn is undoubtedly inferior to our indigenous species but can still make a tasty meal. More suited to cooking in a sauce or seasoned batter, the following recipe works well.
Deep fried tiger prawn pakora
100g gram flour
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
20g chopped fresh parsley
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to season.
Place all ingredients into a bowl and whisk to a smooth paste, place aside.
Dip the peeled tiger prawns individually into the batter, shake off any excess, and place in preheated deep fryer. Cook for three or four minutes approx and serve straight away.
An accompanying sauce such as sweet chilli will go great.