Tuesday, 26 April 2011

King Prawns with Saffron Rice

When I was in my mid-teens, one of my Dad's customers opened a restaurant called 'The Orient Express'. Although it went downhill later on, at the outset it was about the best place in town and it became our Friday evening haunt, with some great characters and fine memories to complement the food and wine. One of my favourite dishes was a simple plate of king prawns served on saffron rice, and last night I decided it was time for a trip down memory lane; refinements to the route will no doubt follow.

Serves two.

Two dozen king prawns - I used raw, shelled ones.
A cup of basmati rice. *
A cup and half of good vegetable or chicken stock. **
A clove of garlic, minced.
Half a teaspoon of saffron.
Half a teaspoon of turmeric.
Quarter of a teaspoon of chilli flakes or crushed chillis.
A pinch or two of herbes de provence/fines herbes.
Half a glass of white wine.
Olive oil.

Bring the stock to the boil then stir in the crushed saffron, turmeric and chilli. Leave it for a minute and then stir in the rice, plus a little salt if you think the stock needs it. Bring back to the boil, then turn the heat right down and seal the pan - cover with foil and top with a lid, wrap the lid in a teatowel and put something heavy on top, whatever works for you, as long as you stop the steam escaping. Now leave it for about fifteen minutes - until the liquid has just gone but before the rice starts to stick to the bottom - while you de-vein the prawns and mince the garlic. Now remove the rice from the heat and let it carry on steaming for another five or ten minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat a little olive oil (enough to just cover the bottom) in a deep frying pan and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes. Don't let it brown. Increase the heat and add the prawns, stir-frying for two or three minutes until pink. Add the dried herbs then pour in the wine, stir and leave to reduce by half.

Serve the juicy, garlicky prawns, wine sauce spooned over, on a bed of yellow, slightly spicy rice, for one of the finest quick suppers I can think of.

I'm really hungry now.

* My 'cups' are basically teacups rather than a US standard measure.
** You could probably use fish stock, but I'm not a big fan.

These days I'm using three or four cloves of garlic and easily double the quantity of wine, to provide more sauce.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A lentil salad

We've been a bit heavy on the meat recently, so this was an attempt to redress the balance. Alas, the Polish sausage Kuba brought back this week, which I foolishly placed by the loaf on the bread board, proved too tempting towards the end of the meal. It wasn't needed: it was just there.

Serves two as a main meal, perhaps with some bread.

Green or puy lentils, three or four handfuls (I have small hands)
250g halloumi cheese
Half a red onion
A clove of garlic
A lemon
Salad leaves, a couple of handfuls (I used romaine and spinach)
Baby plum or cherry tomatoes
A red chilli
Vegetable stock
White wine
Walnut oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh herbs - I didn't use any, but think that mint would work particularly nicely next time.

Slice the red onion, mince the garlic, de-seed and slice the chilli and juice the lemon, then mix all that up in a bowl and leave it.
Wash the lentils then bring them to the boil in about half a litre of the stock topped up with white wine. Cook at a rolling boil for ten minutes then cover and simmer gently till tender (around half an hour), topping up with hot water if needed.
Cut the halloumi into thick slices, sprinkle with paprika and place under a hot grill till golden-brown.
Drain the lentils. Drain the onion mix, reserving the lemon juice - to which add a dash of balsamic vinegar before whisking in a tablespoon of walnut oil and then three or four more of olive oil, till you have a tasty dressing.
Roughly shred the salad leaves and herbs, halve the tomatoes, put everything in a large salad bowl and mix through the dressing. Serve with the halloumi on top and some crusty bread. You can leave the salami in the fridge.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


A cross between paella and risotto, this was a leftover supper for two which worked rather nicely.

A cup of risotto rice
A length of chorizo, sliced
A few raw king prawns
A small onion, finely chopped
A small shallot, finely chopped
Some cloves of garlic, sliced
Green beans
Cognac or white wine
Chicken stock
A pinch of saffron
Tomato purée
A teaspoon or two of dried herbes de Provence
Crème fraîche
Lemon juice
Fresh thyme
Olive oil

Set the stock to warm with a pinch of saffron in it. Heat enough olive oil to cover a large pan, then add the finely chopped onion and shallot and cook gently for a few minutes, until soft. Add the chorizo, along with the garlic and dried herbs, and cook till it starts to release its oil. Add a teaspoon of tomato purée and cook for a minute. Turn up the heat and add a good glug of cognac or white wine, letting it reduce. Stir in the rice to coat the grains, then add some stock and proceed to cook as a risotto. If you're not grilling the king prawns separately, add them around ten minutes before the rice will be cooked - if grilling, just give them a minute in with the rice at the end. Add the green beans with five minutes to go.
Finish off by stirring in a dollop of crème fraîche, a squeeze of lemon juice and a good sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.