Prawns with rice and peppers


As wonderful as barbecues are, after three on as many consecutive nights last week I actually started to get sick of them! But seeing as the weather is still, only just, warm enough to eat outside, I thought I should post this simple prawn paella dish. It’s summer on a plate, perfect for eating al fresco when you don’t want a full on barbie. A chilled glass of white wine is a must alongside. This recipe is so simple and easy to put together, it’s a definite winner for a relaxed late lunch with friends, or if you want to treat your family one warm Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
It’s not a quickie, as the sofrito (slow frying off of your onions, peppers and garlic which provides the base of your dish) takes at least half an hour. Plus there is prep involved – the peeling and deveining of fresh prawns. But what’s wrong with a bit of slow food? This is weekend cooking at its best. Open the white wine, put some of your favourite music on loud and enjoy it! 

I don’t think it’s worth making this dish with a bag of frozen prawns. For starters, the stock comes from the shells. But even if you used a pre-made stock, as it’s a simple dish with very subtle flavours, and the flavour of the fresh prawns really is key to its success. I think frozen prawns, even good quality large ones, often don’t taste of very much, and can be a little bit, well, pappy. They’re OK in some things, just not this…

My dear other half, I have to admit, actually made this dish, with me in the role of assistant / babysitter. By the way, the toddler loved it. It’s so colourful and fresh, I can’t think of a person who wouldn’t, even the fussiest of eaters. 

Serves: 4 people
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients:
A big handful per person of risotto or paella rice (we used Carneroli) 
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
Splash of white wine
3 peppers, any colour (we used mixed), sliced
1 onion, diced
3 large tomatoes, diced
About 18 fresh prawns with shells on, peeled and deveined  
8 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
teaspoon of pimenton dulce (sweet paprika)
A handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 or 4 lemons, to finish / serve
About 1 litre of boiling water 
Salt and pepper

Instructions: 

  1. First, glug a generous amount of olive oil into a large, heavy bottomed frying pan. Then, over a low-medium heat, throw in your onions and peppers. Let them cook, slowly, for at least 30 minutes, half way through adding your garlic. You don’t want to colour the vegetables, but instead make a sofrito (a slow cooked vegetable base). You want to extract the sweetness of the veggies, and soften them so they still have shape but don’t have any bite left to them. 
  2. Whilst your vegetables are slowly cooking down, it’s a perfect time to peel and devein the prawns. Peeling is obvious: just take off the heads, shells and tails without damaging the prawns, there’s no art to it! Save all your shells and heads. To devein get a sharp knife and, starting at what once was the head end, slit a line (a couple of mm deep) right down the back to the tail end. You should be able to see a dark brown line under the skin – this is the poo pipe – follow it down with your knife. The line you’ve cut should enable you to remove the pipe. Put your shells and heads into a small saucepan and add about 1 litre of boiling water. Bring the pot to a boil for about 20 minutes. Drain the pink liquid over a bowl using a sieve, mashing the whole lot to get all the flavour and goodness out. It will smell very prawny – this is the essence of the dish so don’t be tempted to skip it and use shop bought stock! It’s not the same. 
  3. When your sofrito is ready, throw in your fresh tomatoes and let them cook for a few minutes. These add even more colour and freshness to the whole shebang. 
  4. Then add your rice and stir into the mix. Now pour in a glass of white wine and turn up the heat to burn off the alcohol. Add a teaspoon of sweet paprika and stir. 
  5. Now add your stock, so that there is about a cm or 2 of liquid sitting on top of the rice. (It’s OK if you have some stock left over, you can save it in case you need it at the end, although you can use boiling water if you need to.) 
  6. Let the whole lot cook over a medium-high heat, just bubbling away with the lid on, for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is swollen and cooked and almost all the liquid has reduced. You’ll know when it’s ready. Try not to stir it, it’s OK if a little crust forms on the bottom, this is desirable – in fact as it’s delicious.
  7. This dish needs lots fresh parsley, quite a bit of freshly squeezed lemon, salt and pepper and finally a drizzle of very good extra virgin olive oil to serve. A fresh green salad with a lemony dressing goes well alongside. I use the lettuce leaves to scoop up all the rice and prawns!

>> Check out more rice recipes!

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