My Baby and I were trying to decide where to go out for dinner.
“What do you feel like?” he asked.
“Garlic prawns!” I exclaimed, then, thinking about it, went off on a rant. “But where can you get garlic prawns these days? They used to be on every bloody menu in every bloody restaurant, but now they’re gone! Why? WHY?”
Well, we know why. Food is subject to fashion as much as anything else, but it probably shouldn’t be; not when you remember how enjoyable some things – simple things - can be. And what’s not to enjoy about the freshest, crunchiest prawns, with a puddle of the most deliciously garlicky, olive-oily juices to mop up with crusty bread?
Although garlic prawns were subject to much bastardisation (particularly featuring pre-cooked prawns – shudder), those of us Of A Certain Age remember, in far less sophisticated, multicultural times, asking for them at the local pub or “continental” restaurant, where they would come, still sizzling, in an individual cast-iron cocotte sitting on its own wooden plate so it wouldn’t burn the dinner table. Indeed I have a recipe here, from my trusty Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook (no publication date listed), that describes the dish as one of the “top-pop foods from abroad”, and that expression, right there, tells you all you need to know about Australian cuisine in the mid-to-late 70s.
But coincidentally, while reminiscing, as well as ranting, I stumbled upon a recipe for Dee Dee's Sizzling Spanish Garlic Prawns, and therefore decided to stop reminiscing and ranting and just make them already. With my ready-made provenzal, I literally had them in the pan in two minutes, and we were seated at table with garlicky, prawny goodness in front of us, 15 minutes after that (which includes plating-up time).
So here’s my take on Dee Dee’s already fine recipe. I made these in one large pan, but if you want to dig out Mum’s cast-iron cocottes for individual servings, please do so, with my blessing. Send pictures so that I can shed a sentimental tear.
1 kg. green prawn meat (deveined)
1/4 – 1/3 cup provenzal
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried chili
1. Preheat oven to 220oC.
2. In a large cast-iron frying pan combine all ingredients except salt (salting prawns before cooking makes them tough – go figure since they’ve been living in salt water), making sure that prawns are well coated.
3. Bake for 12 minutes, stirring once. Salt lightly, and serve immediately with something starchy to mop up the juices. (Rice is good – particularly if tossed in butter and Parmesan - but crusty bread is indispensable.)