When the weather gets hot I start to reminisce about the meals I’ve eaten on summer holidays through the years and have the urge to recreate them at home to bring back happy memories of traveling. For 3 years running, we went to a crazy music festival in Spain and spent the following week camping and recovering by the sea, cooking over a single flame burner. At that time prawns in Spain were stupidly inexpensive (compared to what we paid for them in England) and cooked quickly over our tiny burner so they featured most nights at our little tent by the sea.
This recipe is a version of that made up one. I added fennel as I love the combination of the aniseed flavors with tomato and fish. If I’d have had some I’d have thrown in a splash of Pernod too. I also now know to buy sustainable, organically farmed prawns. For more info about why, read this.
I love to serve this with crusty bread, a simple salad of arugula (rocket) tossed with lemon juice, salt and pepper and of course, a bottle of something chilled – either beer or wine, ideally rosé. I think this is a perfect Friday night dinner, a little treat to end the week.
Ingredients (Serves 2 greedy or carb avoiding people or 4 if you know everyone will fill up on bread!)
1lb (450g) sustainable, organically farmed shell off raw king prawns (shrimp) – I always buy frozen and defrost them first
1 bulb of fennel
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
a pinch red chili pepper flakes
half a cup (125ml) of white or rosé wine, or 2 tablespoons Pernod
1 and 1/2 cups (375ml) tomato sauce or passata (or purée a can of tomatoes with an immersion blender)
1 lemon, juice and zest
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
To serve –
Good crusty bread, sliced thickly and toasted slightly then rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with good olive oil and a little salt.
1 handful of arugula (rocket) tossed with lemon juice, salt and pepper
You can pick up all the equipment I use through my shop.
1. Toss the prawns (drained of any liquid) in a large bowl along with 1 tablespoon of the smoked paprika and a tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
2. Slice the fennel by slicing off the root then cutting it in half from root to tip. Then cut each half into thin long strips from root to tip (see photo). Be sure to keep the green fronds to add at the end of cooking.
3. Preheat a large frying pan (I use my Scanpan) over a medium high heat then cook the fennel in a half teaspoon of olive oil in a frying pan along with the fennel seeds. This should take around 6 minutes for the fennel to start to soften and turn golden. Try to only turn the fennel after 3 minutes to give it chance to develop color. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
4. Add the alcohol to the pan and allow the bubble for a minute before adding the tomato sauce and a teaspoon of smoked paprika plus chili flakes if using. Simmer, uncovered for around 6 minutes then scrape into a bowl and set aside somewhere warm.
5. Cook the prawns in the same pan, turn the heat up high and throw in the prawns and oil they marinated in. Cook for around 4 minutes until they are pink, toss them every minute or so and if need be, flip individual ones over to check they are cooking on both sides.
6. When the prawns are cooked, stir them through the tomato and fennel, add the zest and juice of a lemon and the fennel fronds then taste for seasoning and adjust the lemon, salt and pepper as needed.
7. To serve, I like to sit a thick slice of toasted bread – which I’ve toasted then gently rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with good olive oil and a little salt – in the bottom of the bowl I’m eating from, then I spoon the prawn stew on top so that the bread soaks up the lovely sauce. It is also good served with bread on the side along with a handful of arugula (rocket) tossed with lemon juice, salt and pepper.