I am in raptures at the idea of crunching down on a garlicky prawn, and then shlurping the buttery, lemony, shellfishy juices from its head. I got the chance to do this twice in December, while on holiday on the KZN South Coast. Am I the lucky one?
Even though they're bought frozen, and so aren't as springy-fleshed as the expensive beasts you get in top-notch South African restaurants, Mozambique prawns are very, very good. A quick griddling and a bowlful of lemon-garlic butter is all you need, but if you're in the mood for something utterly delicious, try them in a mildly curried, garlicky, creamy, zingy, coconutty sauce. I call this recipe 'Durban-spiced' because of the fragrant, spanking-fresh spices it contains. Although I buy them from a wonderful spice shop in the coastal town of Shelly Beach, they come to South Africa via Durban. And if you haven't tasted a Durban curry, well.....
If you can't find freshly ground spices, buy the seeds and roast and grind them yourself: it makes all the difference.
Durban-Spiced Prawns with Coconut Cream
2 kg prawns, in their shells
4 T (60 ml) black mustard seeds
For the marinade:
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
juice and finely grated rind of two fat lemons
4 T (60 ml) olive oil
2 T (30 ml) freshly ground coriander
2 T (30 ml) freshly ground cumin
1 T turmeric
1 T paprika
1-4 t (5-20 ml) cayenne pepper or fresh chilli powder (depending on how hot you'd like your prawns)
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
a handful of curry leaves, fresh or dried
salt and freshly milled black pepper
350 ml tinned coconut cream (or more, if you'd like plenty of sauce)
1 big bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
thin lemon slices
Devein and clean the prawns and put them in a deep plastic bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients to the bowl and, using your hands, toss the prawns so that they are well coated in the marinade. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in a cool place for at least an hour.
Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, or on a flat griddle or ridged skottel placed over a wood fire or a gas braai. When the oil is very hot, but not yet smoking, add the mustard seeds and fry until they begin to pop and sputter. Tip into a bowl, drain off the oil, and set aside. Add more olive oil to the pan and turn up the heat. Remove the prawns from the marinade dish using a slotted spoon and fry them, in batches, over a high flame, until they are just cooked (about 4-5 minutes). Don't overcrowd the pan. Set aside and keep warm.
When the last batch is done, tip the remains of the marinade into the frying pan or griddle pan. Now add the coconut milk and the reserved mustard seeds, and stir or scrape briskly to dislodge the golden-brown residue on the bottom of the pan. Allow to bubble for a minute over a high flame. Now tip the reserved prawns back into the pan, and toss well to coat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and, if necessary, season with more salt and pepper.
Tip the prawns into a heated platter and top with thin lemon slices and fresh coriander.
Serve as a main course with Basmati rice, or as a starter.
Serves 6-8 (main course) or 12 (starter)
*** Or am I the angry one? Read my rant about holidaymakers plundering this coastline for a handful of miniature mussels.