"I was swinging like a toilet door on a prawn trawler."
David Feherty, Irish golfer (born 1958)
Prawns are one of the most popular seafood bought in the UK. However, but for a few distinct species, the popular “King Prawn” (Litopenaeus vannamei) variety have never come from the UK... That is until recently! It’s a real delight to know that two enterprising projects actually cultivate our crustaceous favourites, ethically and sustainably, on our own shores.
The first, FloGro Fresh, I was put on to in July by a fishmonger in the village I spent my teenage years. Cranleigh Fish had put a picture of some "English prawns" on their Instagram page which immediately got us into conversation about the provenance of these conspicuously non-native critters. It turned out they were being farmed at a Lincolnshire-based operation in a manner that has been given top rating by the Marine Conservation Society for sustainability. Their quality has also been recognised by a chef many will be familiar with, Yotam Ottolenghi.
By coincidence, the second, I happened (on Instagram as well as it happens!) to have come across a then-forthcoming venture by the name of Great British Prawns, farming the same species in Sterlingshire. Once launched their produce was selling so fast it took me several weeks before I was able to get my hands on any. Since then they have featured in national newspapers and, more recently, been endorsed in Riverford's “Wicked Leeks” magazine and in an article in August’s "Delicious" magazine.
It may seem something of a departure for this blog to be showcasing a farmed product from rather more distant parts of the UK than Bute Street, but it's an intentional departure and one of a series to come. First and foremost, these prawns are farmed ethically and sustainably and, being farmed, seasonality is not a subject on the agenda. And when it comes to the subject of farming, the simple truth is that by far the vast majority of prawns (notably, of this type) we consume in the UK come from farms a great distance from the UK, let alone Bute Street. These farms are often shrouded in controversy over their hygiene, labour practices and environmental impact so there's no question that it's a good news story to have sustainable, ethical and environmentally-friendly prawn farms "locally", here in the UK.
To the eating... I wanted a nice, simple recipe to allow these prawns to speak as much as possible for themselves, and the classically accompanying flavours of garlic, lemon and parsley, plus a pinch of chilli flakes, in Rick Stein's "Gremolata Prawns" from his book "Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey" were ideal. As with dishes such as "Singapore Chilli Crab", this really does need to be eaten with the hands - the flavour of the dressing mainly being imparted by the fingers that touch the shells. So some finger bowls and plenty of napkins are advisedly called for!
This serves 2 as part of a tapas type spread. If peppers and/or aubergines are in season, some grilled slices would be a nice accompaniment to these prawns. Or, depending on the time of year, for a Mediterranean-style seafood spread, consider offering any of:
Ingredients (Serves 2)
600-700g king prawns, shell-on, washed and dried well
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
Zest of half a lemon, cut into very thin 1.5cm-long shreds
Juice of half a lemon
A small handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
Dried chilli flakes, quantity to taste (but at least a pinch)
A glug of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve
Roughly chop the garlic cloves, then add half the parsley and continue to chop both to a sort of sprinkling consistency. Combine well with the shreds of lemon zest in a small mixing bowl.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high and add the prawns. Leave for half a minute or so then give them a turn and add the chilli flakes and some seasoning. Continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes, turning occasionally and adding additional seasoning as preferred.
Just before the prawns have completely turned pink add the lemon juice to the pan (be careful, it will sizzle and may spit) and allow the liquid to reduce until it has all but evaporated. Add the garlic, parsley and lemon zest, stir it in and remove from the heat to cool for a minute or so. Meanwhile chop the remaining parsley for the garnish.
Transfer the prawns to a serving dish and sprinkle over the chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
"Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey", Rick Stein (1999), pp. 108: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Seafood-Odyssey-Stein/dp/0563551860
FloGro Fresh, website accessed 15 October 2020
Cranleigh Fish, Facebook page, accessed 15 October 2020
Marine Conservation Society, website accessed 16 October 2020
Ottolenghi, website accessed 29 October 2020
Great British Prawns Limited, website accessed 15 October 2020
Riverford Organic Farmers, website accessed 15 October 2020
"UK-grown ethical prawns reach households", Wicked Leeks by Riverford, accessed 15 October 2020
"Delicious" Magazine, website accessed 15 October 2020
"Singapore Chilli Crab", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Almejas a la Marinera", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Seafood Salad", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Cockles and Broad Beans", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Alubias Blancas con Almejas", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Crab and Chorizo Croquetas with Pea Mayonnaise", Bute Street Seafoodie