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 Wandering around the Le Bugue market yesterday, I was drawn to a variety of gorgeous fruits, vegetables, pates, cheeses and as usual was planning my menus for the next few days as I picked up this and that. The last stall I always stop at is the fish stall/poissonerie. The selection is endless, incredibly fresh, most of the shellfish is still moving and alive and the owners are just so pleasant. It does not hurt that their prices are excellent to boot. I was drawn to a large sign advertising one of the specials: 500g (1 pound) large prawns for 8 Euro. Immediately my preplanned dinner idea of a pork roast with mustard and honey glaze was relegated to the next evening and a new dinner idea was born. Prawns or Gambas as they are often referred to here in France! But, how would I cook them. We love spicy food and nothing is better than a spicy prawn on the grill. I decided on a South African recipe, using a spice called peri-peri. I always keep some in my spice drawer. A BBQ in South Africa is called a “braai”, derived from the Afrikaans word, “braaivleis”, which means grilled meat. to talk to any South African about a braai will immediately bring a smile to their faces. We grow up with this kind of food: it is part of the South African culture, a real institution. Organizing a braai is one of the most common things in this melting pot of cultures with 11 official languages. Rare are the weekends without a braai, it is a national pass time. Peri-peri, sometimes spelled piri-piri is a very hot pepper, 4 out of 5 on the hotness scale. one varieties measure up to 175000 Scoville heat units. It is sometimes called African bird’s-eye chilli and grows in Southern Africa. One seldom sees the actual peppers, you buy it as a dry spice or as a sauce, oil or marinade. I prefer the dry spice as you can easily control the heat level by deciding how much or how little to add. if you do not have peri-peri on hand, substitute cayenne pepper. This is a finger licking, lip smacking, messy eating experience but it is so good. Just have lots of paper towels handy.

I use the whole prawn, head and all as it makes for a much nicer presentation. To devein the prawns prior to cooking, simply take a sharp knife and cut along the back. Remove the black veins carefully with a toothpick or the tip of your knife and you are ready to go. I would suggest about 250g/8 to 9 oz per person.

Serves 6

1 1/2 kg/3 lb large raw prawns, deveined but leave head and shells

Marinade:
3 garlic cloves, minced
100ml/1/2 cup vegetable, canola, sunflower oil
75ml/1/3 cup olive oil
6 Tablespoons melted butter, non salted
pinch of salt
Black pepper
4 teaspoons paprika
juice of one lemon
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon peri-peri powder (depends on taste – I use 2)
100ml/1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc works well)

In the Kitchen:

Place the prawns in a large shallow container
Mix all the marinade ingredients together well
Divide the marinade into two equal halves
Pour one half over the prawns and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours, stirring from time to time (no more than 4 hours) to ensure all are coated

At the braai / BBQ:

Prepare the grill to about 175C/350F
Remove the prawns from the marinade and place on a grill tray
Cover and cook for about 8 minutes depending on their size
Turn once during cooking and pour the rest of the marinade that they were soaking in over them as they cook
While the prawns are cooking, take the second half of the reserved marinade and bring it to the boil in a small saucepan, boil for 30 seconds
Remove the prawns from the grill and pour the sauce over them
Serve with rice and a green salad and bread to mop up the delicious sauce
Enjoy!

Wine suggestion:
Viognier, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc make a beautiful match for your spicy prawns.

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