While freshly caught seafood is the more sustainable way forward, you’ve got to admit that a frozen packet now and then has definitely come in handy to fix a meal. The ease of thawing a packet of ready seafood and tossing it in a pan can be a real lifesaver when time is of the essence.
On my aglio olio nights at least twice a month, I work like clockwork— garlic is cooked on medium-low in plenty of olive oil till the kitchen is fragrant; chillies or chilli flakes are tossed in to colour the oil a lovely orange; then all of it gets swooshed up in the linguine and about a quarter cupful of starchy pasta water, till saucy enough to coat. Quickly season, add in gratinated parmesan, toss toss toss, and take off the heat. To improve on an already very good recipe, you must be smart enough to bring to the table something you know will benefit from the flavour of garlic, olive oil and chilli, and so one day I decided to add prawns to the mix.
The addition of rosé to this pasta is quite recent, and felt rather unusual at first. I ran out of the dredges of white wine usually kept under the sink for times like these, and since I’m not the sorts to complain in the kitchen, but rather hastily substitute, I went straight for the rose. It worked like magic. I reduced it by at least half in the pan with the garlic and the chilli, before adding in the prawns. After a whole minute of cooking the prawns, in went some pasta water, the spaghetti in this case and heaps of refreshed coriander, stalks and all. In doing so, I added some much needed herbaceous zing here, as well as some lovely bitter texture to cut through the sweet seafood. A wedge of lime before serving, and you’re done.
Prawns and Rosé Spaghetti
Serve these rosé tossed prawns and spaghetti with a squeeze of lime for when friends come over and they’ll be floored by all the flavour a simple bowl of pasta can pack.
Olive oil 3 tbsp, plus more to finish
Garlic cloves 4
Red chilli 1-2, depending on how hot you like it
Rosé wine 200ml
Prawns 200g, deveined and thawed. Any excess water drained
Lime 1, juiced
Coriander 2 tbsp, freshly chopped
Salt and pepper
Start on the spaghetti first. In a large saucepan filled with water brought to a rolling boil, add the dry pasta and let it cook as per packet instructions till it is al dente, or has a bit of bite to it.
Strain out the pasta reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
In a shallow saucepan, heat 2 out of the 3 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Add in the garlic, reduce the heat slightly to a medium low and let the garlic cook for a minute before adding in the chilli. Cook this for another minute.
Next, splash in the rosé, increase the heat to medium high again and let the wine reduce by half at least. Quickly season the prawns with salt and pepper before adding it to the pan and cook till the prawns have turned pink and curled. This should take about two to three minutes.
Working swiftly, add in the hot pasta water, drained pasta and the reserved tablespoon of oil and toss the contents of the pan together over the heat to make a sauce that coats the pasta. Season once, add in the chopped coriander and take it off the heat. Add a spritz of lime juice, taste and adjust with another spritz if necessary. Distribute the pasta between bowls and serve immediately.
The second recipe is one I’ve been sitting on for a bit. It’s a quick stir-fry with water spinach and prawns that’s flavoured rather simply with the very reliable combination of turmeric, coriander and red chilli powders. If you use a very hot kadai or wok, this dish can be ready in less than fifteen minutes, mise en included.
Prawns and Water Spinach Stir-Fry
Use the tender stems and leaves of the water spinach in this stir-fry that’s quick to whip up and serves two easily with some rice.
Water spinach or Kolmi saag 1 large bunch, leaves and tender stems only
Prawns 300g, deveined and thawed. Any excess water drained
Onion 1 small, cut into thin slices
Garlic 3 cloves
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Green chillies 2, slit lengthwise and chopped into four pieces
Begin by heating the wok or kadai over high heat. Add to this the vegetable oil. Once hot, add in the onions and let these cook till translucent over medium high heat. Add in the garlic next and let the cloves soften for a minute. Add a tablespoon of water together with the coriander, turmeric and red chilli powder and stir everything to combine.
Next, tip in the prawns and allow these to cook, tossing them occasionally to coat them in the spices. In two minutes or less, the prawns should curl and cook, which means you should start adding the chopped water spinach in batches, letting them wilt before adding in some more.
Once all the leaves have wilted and the water released is beginning to dry up from the sides, add in the salt, slit green chillies, chopped coriander and toss a few times before taking it off the flame. Serve.
I’ve saved the best for last. Thawed prawns are wok-tossed in reduced tomato puree, garlic, ginger and fish sauce, which is a winning combo. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of fish sauce I use in this recipe. As everything cooks down, you’ll realise that you need the fish sauce to balance the tomatoes, creating a savoury-sweet balance that you can finish with a spritz of lime on the table.
Wok-Tossed Prawns With Tomato and Fish Sauce
Fish sauce and tomatoes together would be what I’d prescribe for an interesting umami rich ragu, but here I cook them simply with garlic, ginger, sugar and chillies for a prawn dish to serve with rice. Don’t forget to serve with wedges of lime.
Vegetable oil 2 tbsp
Prawns 15 medium-sized pieces
Garlic 4 cloves
Red chillies 2, slit lengthwise and chopped finely
Tomato purée 1/2 terra pack (90-100g)
Sugar 3 tbsp
Black pepper 1 tsp
Fish sauce 4 tbsp
Water or chicken stock 175ml or 3/4th cup
Tomato 1 small, diced
Spring onion 1, green and white parts finely chopped, plus more to garnish
Coriander 2 tbsp, finely chopped, plus more to garnish
In a bowl, combine the fish sauce with the stock or water and set aside.
To start, reduce half a packet of the tomato purée over medium-high heat, stirring it often so that it doesn’t catch and burn. Reduce it till only a tablespoonful of thick tomato paste is left. Spoon this out and set aside.
In a preheated wok, add in two tablespoonfuls of vegetable oil, followed by the garlic and chilli. Toss it till fragrant and quickly add in the prawns, tomato paste and sugar. Stir again till the prawns are coated well in the red paste, for a minute. Splash in the fish sauce and stock mixture, top with the diced tomatoes, some black pepper and chopped coriander and spring onions. Let this cook down for a few minutes till the prawns are cooked through.
Remove the prawns to a serving plate and continue to reduce the sauce till it is slightly thicker than before and pour over the prawns. Finish with more spring onion or coriander if you’d like. Serve with rice and wedges of lime to squeeze over.