Seeing Red

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I would be lost in my kitchen without good salt and top quality olive oil. For me, these two magic ingredients instantly lift and bring so many other flavours to life. But there is one other ingredient that I’m practically addicted to and I favour over everything else...the “Gamba de Soller”!




Every time I wander around the market in Palma, I always find myself literally drooling over the stunningly fresh, locally caught red prawns from Soller. I don’t think it is possible to put anything finer in your mouth. With that intense, wild taste that just explodes when you bite into their firm flesh... I crave Majorcan prawns the way most pregnant women crave chocolate.



The best way to cook them is also the easiest. You just scatter a little sea salt over a very hot, flat grill and place the whole prawns on top. Let them sit for 20 seconds or so until they start to toast, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Wait another 20 seconds and scatter them with chopped parsley and crushed garlic. Turn them over, drizzle with a little more olive oil and finish cooking for another minute. You will be rewarded with an intoxicating aroma and one of the great taste sensations to be found anywhere in the world.



Eating Gambas de Soller is not for the meek or the timid. You have to get stuck in with your fingers and suck the prawns dry before you begin to wrestle the flesh from its crispy red casing. Some people might leave the head. This should be made illegal; as it is the tastiest part and pornographically good…ALL the prawn must be consumed.



You see these prawns are expensive and nothing should go to waste. The most important thing when buying Gambas de Soller is their freshness, which you can tell by the appearance of the shell: They should be a shiny, vibrant red colour, firm to the touch and elastic. If they have been preserved in ice, their head quickly darkens and their gastronomic value is lost. For this reason, it is best to consume them fresh from the sea. If you simply can’t handle eating the heads, save them as they make a wonderful sauce that will add a unique taste to the most humble fish dish.
Most tapas bars serve a dish called “Gambas con gabardina”, literally translated as “prawns in an overcoat” the Gambas are shelled, leaving just the top part of the tail, dipped in batter and deep-fried in hot oil until crisp.

Another simple, delicious tapa is Gambas al Ajillo. This can be made in a few minutes with garlic, prawns, olive oil and chili peppers. It normally comes swimming in olive oil so having some crusty bread available to mop up the sauce is imperative.




GAMBAS CON GABARDINA



Ingredients serves 4-6



30 prawns, deveined & peeled but with the tip of the tail left on

2 large eggs

250g flour

1tsp baking powder

250ml beer

a pinch of salt

a pinch of paprika





In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and paprika. Add the beer and leave in a warm room for 20 minutes. We are looking for a nice thick batter.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a small pan over high heat. Dip each prawn into the batter (holding by the tail) and add to the oil.

They will cook very quickly. Cook for about 1 minute until golden brown.

Remove to a paper towel to absorb the oil. Serve hot with a little garlic aioli.



GAMBAS AL AJILLO


Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

350g Prawns, preferable locally caught from Majorca

100ml extra virgin olive oil


3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 red chili, finely chopped

2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

½ lemon, juiced



Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli and sizzle gently for a few seconds. Just as the garlic is beginning to take on a hint of colour, add the prawns. On high heat cook 1-2 minutes per side, until the little prawns are golden on the outside yet still moist inside. Remove from the heat; finish by sprinkling with parsley and lemon juice and serve at once, still sizzling.



CLASSIC PRAWN COCKTAIL



Ingredients:            serves 4



350g            cooked peeled small prawns
2tbsp            chopped fresh chives + extra to garnish
2             Avocados
½             shredded iceberg lettuce

Cocktail Sauce

150ml mayonnaise

50ml            tomato ketchup

2 tsp            Worcestershire sauce

1tsp            Tabasco sauce

1⁄2 lemon, juice only

1 clove garlic, crushed

Seasoning



Mix all the ingredients of the cocktail sauce together.



Cut the avocados in half and remove the stone.

Toss the cooked, cold prawns with the chives, shredded lettuce and cocktail sauce. Place on top of the avocados, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.

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