Okay, I prefer scampi to prawns, but Paul Hogan’s mob has its place in any kitchen, As Hogan said: don’t get fancy with prawns. Cook them quickly, eat them quickly.
Prawns should be kept as simple as possible. No need to deluge them with cream or rich stock-based sauces. Like most of the brilliantly flavoured, shelled creatures fromthe sea, the very best way to cook them is to heat them through, and crush them still hot in between two pieces of heavily buttered bread. As always with such pleasant peasant meals, you must not use the buttered prawn sandwich as a training run for dinner at government house. The butter will dribble down your chin, there’s a very good chance one of the prawns will flip out of the sandwich and land on your lap, and when it’s all over you’ll have oily fingers and an oily nose, an impossible-to- remove blob on your tie, and a sheepish look on the dial.
Prawns should also be cooked by you. There is no value in buying cooked prawns: first, there is no way of knowing whether they have been cooked properly; secondly, once cooked, they’re usually frozen, and filled with too much retained moisture from the cooking pot; and thirdly, prawns taste a million times better warm straight out of the pan.
Whether the green prawns have been frozen or not is probably not worth worrying about. There’s a good argument to suggest that prawns, which degenerate rather quickly, particularly when caught in the tropics, should be frozen at sea to ensure they are in optimum condition when you pop them into your pan. As always, the fresh variety tastes better, but in this case commonsense might outweigh any strident calls for fresh first, frozen blaagh. As long as you know when you buy.
This is the simplest dish in the book.
6 prawns, shelled and cut into fours
fresh herbs, from garden
olive oil or butter
Heat a non-stick pan, or heavy-based equivalent or wok, until very hot, toss in the chopped prawns and spin them about the pan.
When just about done (about 40 seconds), add fresh herbs, lemon juice and a little olive oil (or butter) and continue tossing about until the herbs just wilt. Taste for seasoning, and be very liberal with the pepper grinder. Serve on their own, with pasta, rice, or on toast or crusty bread.
Now, with garlic – what you do with the hot prawns really depends on your imagination. They are brilliant cut into tiny pieces and tossed through freshly made pasta – add a few roughly chopped cashews and lots of black pepper to give a little surprising texture and a rather nice taste connection; herbs naturally, and melted butter. Or try the hot prawns in a pasta salad.
Garlic prawns? Just empty a load of garlic in a gently warmed pan. Add a little olive oil, cook the garlic until softened, then add the prawns.
WINE: Try beer with prawns, in the great Australian tradition. If not, a well-bred riesling from Clare, Eden Valley or Central Victoria.