Bob Hart’s recipe for King Prawns
KING PRAWNS AT THEIR BEST
For reasons that are not clear to me, the prawns on offer through markets and shops this year have been the best we have seen in years. There are plenty of large and handsome king prawns, all of them wild caught, and a few beauties freshly caught and never frozen.
Now we are a nation, sadly, keen on taking shortcuts with our barbecued prawns – such as buying those frozen prawn cutlets and other processed versions, many of them reportedly farmed in sewers, or similar, to our north. I suggest you avoid these, or anything sold out of its shell, if you can.
The flavour-magic of perfect Australian prawns from pristeen waters will be revealed by quickly and briefly grilling them in their shells, ideally with their heads still in place. And obviously, the fresher you can get hold of them, the better, although blast-freezing is very effective technology these days.
So just this once, give Aussie prawns – big green ones – a go: pick up a dozen large kings and use a sharp beak knife to split them down the back without removing the shell to extract the poop tube. It’s not difficult if the prawns are fresh and your beak knife is as sharp as it should be. Do not cut up into the head, but use that as your starting point for the cut. Your beak knife will make removing that tube a simple exercise.
So now you have a dozen gleaming prawns, heads in place, poop tubes removed, and the world is your oyster. Or prawn. Try this:
The decision you are now faced with is the direction in which to take the flavour: prawns respond well to most Asian and other flavours – Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and more. But this time, I suggest you try this simple, non-specific marinade which, provided the prawns are premiums, and you cook them swiftly on a very hot grill, is magical.
Combine, in a large bowl, the zest of 2-3 limes (depending on size), 2-3 fresh bird’s eye (or similar) chillies, depending on how hot you like things, 2-3 crushed garlic cloves, a splash of fish sauce to season and pull the flavours together, and half a cup of your finest EV olive oil. Whisk well, and add the cleaned prawns, heads and all, to the bowl with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so.
Slice the zested limes in half and keep handy for squeezing over the cooked prawns.
Fire up your grill to at least 200C, or a touch hotter, and grill the prawns, covered, flipping once, for 2-3 minutes a side. Brush them with a touch more of the marinade when you turn them.
Lift off the grill on to a platter, and squeeze some of the fresh lime juice over them, decapitate, peel and eat. It simply does not get any better…