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.
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.
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.