Saturday, March 27, 2010

simple food - harissa prawn recipe

No need for a DNA test, I am definitely my father’s daughter. Bob is often heard to lament, “You can’t get decent prawns in New Zealand”. So, as the daughter in exile here in the land of “throw another shrimp on the barbie”, I do my best to eat his quota of our favourite crustacean.

While it’s easy to gorge on prawns, a mere half dozen per person is easy on the budget to add a little bit of special-ness to a meal. Though with medium-sized prawns being sold locally for a mere 40-50 cents a pop, a larger serve can still be much cheaper than a fillet of fish or a steak. Or even a block of organic tofu, come to think of it.

With an abundance of hot red chillies growing in the garden (do you want some?), every few weeks I’m making a batch of harissa paste to throw into a tagine or just spice up some vegetables. I have always been a sucker for sizzling plates of old-fashioned garlic and chilli prawns served in Spanish restaurants, so going the whole spice route hog and rubbing them with harissa made total sense to me.

Harissa prawns

1 tsp of stripped back harissa paste for every 6-8 prawns*

Rub paste on the prawns and refrigerate for about an hour.

Heat vegetable oil (olive, raw sesame etc) in a heavy based fry pan and cook prawns a couple of minutes. Drain on a paper towel. As this doesn’t take long, cook in batches so not to overcrowd the pan.

The prawns are simple and stunning. The cumin in my latest batch of harissa is quite coarsely ground, imparting a tantalizingly nutty flavour. They can be served hot or cold, though it is very difficult to not scoff the lot en route from pan to plate.

Serving suggestions

A platter of harissa prawns goes well with a selection of salads. The nuttiness compliments brown rice, toasted almonds, green beans and white bean salads in particular. Or try a simple potato and green salad combination .

Substitute harissa prawns for tempeh in a cross-cultural version of my meat-free nasi lemak.

As canapés, for finger food with a kick.

* Here’s my version of harissa again
6 medium hot red chilies
6 plump cloves of garlic
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds

Toast the seeds in a pan, swirling all the time so they don’t burn. After a couple of minutes the aroma will tell you they are cooking nicely. Keep swirling until the coriander seeds begin to brown. Remove immediately from the pan (residual heat = burnt seeds) and grind with a mortar and pestle.

Chop the chilies into quarters (if you really don’t like the heat, deseed or use less chilies) and process with the garlic, a touch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Throw in the pounded roasted seeds and whiz until you have a nice paste. The consistency I aimed for was runny enough to process easily but a paste rather than a slurry. I used raw sesame oil not necessarily out of authenticity, just because we’ve got a surplus of it at the moment.

The raw paste had a kick but a nice rounded flavour from the other herbs as well. Given that I have a heavy hand when it comes to heat, this quantity of paste would be enough for a meal of about 6 people with good tolerance, or two meals of 4 for those who like things a little milder.

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Blogger K_Bom said...

Wow - thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!

Not only for the delicious prawn ideas, but also for the wonderful harissa recipe. I have some lovely chillies growing in the vege patch here up in the Dandenongs (albeit a little possum-bitten) and was on the lookout for some creative ways to use them on a larger scale. In the past I've always just thrown them in the freezer for later use.

I too descend from a long line of prawn-o-philes; this morning I picked up a lovely kilo's worth at the Vic Market, juicy, plump and oh so fresh. How lucky are we in Australia to have access to some of the world's best and freshest produce?

Thanks again, and great blog!


1:18 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

K - glad I've inspired something for your chili excess. A good layer of oil on top of the harissa in the jar helps shelf-life. Makes nice gifts too (along with a recipe).

Now, if someone can tell me the recipe for harissa carrots at Cumulus Inc I'll be a very happy woman!

1:49 pm  
Blogger Lisa (bakebikeblog) said...

harissa + prawns - what a great combination! Thanks for sharing :)

11:04 am  
Blogger Desci said...

This looks SO good. I'm thinking tossed into a rocket salad with preserved lemons, mmm.

And I'd love some chillis if you're offering, hehe ;)

12:07 pm  
Blogger neil said...

Love a hot spicy prawn, what a good idea to use harissa. Reckon a few of these threaded on skewers and cooked over glowing coals would make a pleasant mid-autumn bbq - with icy cold beer of course! That's the important food groups covered.

6:56 pm  

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