You know that saying "do something each day that scares you?" Yeah, well as a naturally scared-of-everything person, I can't relate to that idea at all - I'm all about the reduction of nervousness. However I very recently did something where the payoff was worth a bit of risk a squillion times over. Some people might see that saying and think "go skydiving" or "finally get that tattoo" or "ask boss for a raise" or something. I...bought some frozen prawns for the first time. And cooked them for dinner. All of a sudden I couldn't think why I'd never done it before, since Nigella has so many recipes for them and all. I'd eaten them before, not often, yet in my mind they had an aura of great expense and difficulty about them. It couldn't be more the opposite. $16 for a kilo of frozen raw prawns (I understand the frozen cooked ones are pretty nasty), considering 100g is one serving and there's only two of us, and considering what a kilo of various other meats would cost, it's pretty reasonable. Although nothing is as reasonable is the enormous $4 block of tofu that I get from the vege market...
The first recipe I made was Nigella's Japanese Prawns, and it was watching her make these on her latest TV show Kitchen which finally got me to make the simple connection between 'Nigella makes lots of easy recipes with prawns' and 'I could make lots of easy recipes with prawns'. Nigella confides to the viewer that it's a recipe that she probably cooks the most of, and I thought "O RLY," a bold claim when she has so much excellence to choose from, but after tasting them I am inclined to agree.
From Nigella Lawson's Kitchen
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sake
pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon lime juice (I didn't have any - used cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 teaspoons garlic oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced
200g frozen raw prawns
Salad leaves, rice or noodles and coriander to serve
Whisk together the water, sake, salt, lime juice and wasabi.
Heat the garlic oil in a large pan till sizzling, then stir in the spring onions and tip in the frozen prawns. Cook, stirring frequently for a couple of minutes till they're properly pink. Tip in the sake mixture, allowing it to bubble up, and cook the prawns in it for another couple of minutes. Tip out onto a bed of salad leaves and sprinkle with coriander. Serve with rice, noodles, or just as is.
The smell of sake hitting a hot pan has got to be one of the best things in the world, savoury, fragrant, almost like the smell of bread baking. Combined with the sharp, mustardy wasabi and served with the gentle ocean-taste of the prawns, it's a faint-makingly good dinner. Nigella also mentioned how she liked the clattering of frozen prawns tumbling into the pan, I had my doubts but it is oddly satisfying.
Having successfully cooked them once, I was in love, and I wanted to cook ALL the prawns. They're just so easy. They're done mere minutes, but there's something about them that looks as though you made a huge effort, as if you'd hewn each curly pink crustacean by hand out of...a bigger crustacean.
Equal rapture ensued when I made Nigella's Lemony Prawn Salad from Forever Summer. Another extremely simple recipe combining quickly fried prawns with a flavour-heavy coat of dressing. In the background of the above picture you can just see Tim, patiently waiting while I take photos of his dinner...
Lemony Prawn Salad
From Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson
2 cloves garlic
1 spring onion
2 tablespoons plain oil (I use Riceola Rice Bran oil)
5 tablespoons olive oil
375g raw prawns
cos lettuce and chives, to serve
Cut the top and bottom off the lemon, then slice off the peel and pith till you're left with just a nude lemon. Chop it into four and place in the food processor with one of the cloves of garlic and the spring onion and blitz to mush. Scrape down the sides and then stick the lid back on and process, pouring in the plain oil and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil down the funnel as it goes. Tear your lettuce into pieces, toss it with most of the dressing and divide between two plates. Gently heat the remaining garlic clove with the remaining oil in a large pan. Remove the garlic clove and once the oil's hot, add the prawns to the pan, and cook through. Transfer them to the two plates and snip over the chives, and spoon over any remaining dressing.
- I didn't have that lettuce but I did have a packet of rocket.
- For two people that seems like a huge amount of oil, I reduced it by about two tablespoons.
- I used just 200g prawns and it was all good.
- I didn't bother with the garlic infusion thing...
- I had an old-timey lemon with soft skin and enormous amounts of snowy pith and seeds. The more modern lemons with thin skin and hardly any pips work better for this logistically.
- I had some brutal, burning cloves of garlic so I added a tiny pinch of caster sugar to the dressing to counteract this - worked nice.
- You want the pan to be really pretty hot, because the frozen-ness of the prawns cools it down a bit and you want them to sear, not limply stew.
The dressing is magical - the lemon chunks and oil turn into a creamy, sour, rich yellow emulsion, which slides over the prawns and leaves onto the spaghetti below, basically making everything incredibly delicious.
The juicy, crisp-tipped asparagus was excellent with it too - it was just a seriously amazing meal. There are still many, many more prawn recipes I want to try now, and like Jasmine and Aladdin it's a whole new world. Thank you, Nigella - thank you, prawns.
Tim and I (well, just Tim, but I was in the room when it happened) worked out a calendar of all the things we've got coming up over December and January - it's dizzyingly busy times ahead. I think it would be completely logical to make December six weeks long so that you can fit in everything you need to but still get to sleep every now and then.
Title via: Bob Dylan, Only A Pawn In Their Game. Ah, Bob Dylan. He's quite good. Although Tim insisted on getting this horrendous later album of his from a bargain bin, it was fairly unlistenable. It was Dire Straits-esque. I guess Dylan only had so much "Blowing in the Wind" inside of him. I like this song though, and how it speeds up and slows down whenever he says the title line.
Pharoahe Monch, Push from his album Desire - he's in New Zealand right now but we didn't have the time or the funds for it this time round - in lieu of that, he's always available on youtube...
Kristin Chenoweth, Taylor The Latte Boy from As I Am - I generally can't deal with stuff this intentionally cute but her stunning voice and quick-wittedness makes this strangely compelling.
Next time: I made the awesomest dumplings from this blog here...I also have some honey-related stuff to talk about...