Prawns

Prawns

By
From
Finding Fire
Serves
4

How good can a prawn be? To this day, I still remember my first one at Etxebarri. I had been working there for a couple of weeks before an opportunity came to try one of the gambas, which came from the small fishing village of Palamos on the east coast of Spain. The deep coastal shelf off the east coast sees the prawns netted from depths of over 100 metres (328 feet). The sudden change in pressure when they are brought to the surface causes instant death.

They looked like amazing prawns, large, succulent and bright pink, but I didn’t think anything more of them. I had eaten many prawns over the years and this was just one grilled prawn on a plate with nothing more than some sea salt … its simple appearance was disarming. I placed the prawn in my mouth and sucked on the head. I was overwhelmed with a sudden wave of emotion; in one mouthful the prawn juices imparted the subtle smoke of the grill, the intense natural character of the prawn and the fresh, briny taste of the sea. It was so good, I cried.

Australia is famous for its prawns and has coined the phrase ‘shrimp on the barbie’ as part of its culinary culture, which speaks of the abundance of great seafood as much as the Aussie outdoor lifestyle. But Australia is a big country and prawns do not travel particularly well. Most prawns are either sold cooked, frozen and/or treated with sodium metabisulfite, which is a chemical the prawns are washed in to improve shelf life and prevent discolouration. While you may pay more for fresh, wild, untreated prawns, it is worthwhile, as prawns have a very delicate and creamy texture that can be readily ruined by poor handling.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
8 wild raw prawns (shrimp) (see note)
grapeseed oil, for spraying
sea salt
16 seablite sprigs

Method

  1. 1. Prepare your embers. Arrange a grill approximately 15 cm (6 in) above them.
  2. 2. Prepare the prawns. Using the point of a sharp knife, make a small incision at the base of the prawn, just above the tail on the inner side, releasing the base of the digestive tract. Locate the other end of the digestive tract between the body and head. Using small tweezers or the point of a sharp knife, carefully pull to remove the digestive tract and discard.
  3. 3. Spray the prawns sparingly with grapeseed oil and season with sea salt.
  4. 4. Grill the prawns for 2–3 minutes. The shell will turn from a light bluish grey to an orangey pink.
  5. 5. Carefully turn the prawns, spray again with grapeseed oil and season with sea salt. Grill for a further 2–3 minutes. The shells should be lightly toasted from the grill, not charred, and have a sweet aroma with no indication of ammonia. The meat inside the tail will have firmed up and turned opaque. The prawns are cooked when the juices in the heads begin to bubble gently.
  6. 6. Garnish with the seablite and serve immediately.

NOTE

  • Source fresh, wild untreated prawns. If you want to prepare them and grill them later, you are best to keep them in an iced 5% salt brine solution where they will keep for up to 36 hours.
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