Grilled prawns & prawn risotto

Here is a satisfying dish that brings together the creamy richness of arborio rice and the glorious flavour of prawns. The first involves a slow, gentle cooking process of simmering, stirring and frying. The second sees all hell break loose for three minutes.

To make grilled prawns with prawn risotto for four, you will need:

For the risotto

  • 1,5 cups arborio rice
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 120ml dry white wine
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped
  • Italian parsley
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper on demand
  • The shells or carapaces of 1kg prawns (but never the ‘vein’)
  • Half-teaspoon of turmeric, plus quarter-teaspoon paprika (for the colour)

For the prawns

  • The shelled prawns
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Generous dash of Red Tobasco
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped cloves garlic
  • Delicate sprinkling
  • of coarse salt 

We begin with the prawns. Thaw them under the cold tap, then peel off and save the carapaces or shells. Clean the prawns by removing the ‘vein’ (it’s actually the colon), then return the prawns to the fridge under cover until later in the proceedings.

Next – since it’s a slow process – the risotto.

Rinse the prawn shells and dump them in a litre of lightly salted water at a rolling boil. Cut the heat, skim off the scum, simmer for half an hour, then strain and discard the prawn shells. Add the litre of chicken stock (cubes are OK), salt to taste, then leave it to simmer on standby in a saucepan.

Finely chop the onion and garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic and fry gently until they are soft and translucent. Pour in the arborio rice (use no other type – this is non-negotiable) and stir-fry until all the grains are separate. I grant you that this is non-intuitive, but bear with me as the narrative slowly unfolds.

Now for the fuss and hard concentration. Pour in the wine and stir until mostly evaporated. Add 80ml or so of the stock and stir until this is absorbed by the rice. Continue to add stock in 80ml doses, stirring continuously over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the rice is pleasantly chewy.

Stir in the chopped parsley, some black pepper and the optional turmeric/paprika mixture, plus a final 50ml to 80ml of stock. Cover the saucepan, and remove from the heat.

The big prawn moment has arrived. If the beasts are large, thread them on wet wooden skewers and give them no more than three minutes on a hot braai, turning them once.

If not, fling them into a hot wok with a little canola oil, and stir-fry like crazy until they are opaque – no more than about two minutes. Or arrange them in a thin layer on a roasting pan with the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and Red Tobasco. Grill at fierce heat in the oven for two minutes or so until they are opaque.

Arrange the cooked prawns on a layer of prawn risotto and serve at once, accompanied by a generous portion of Pavarotti.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.