Roasted prawns with dipping sauce

We all know the traditional image of prawns: palid specimens covered in red goo, heaped in a sundae glass dish or even a wineglass. Oh, I nearly forgot the ‘bed of lettuce’. Instead of this gustatory let-down, here are two great dipping sauces designed to enhance rather than obscure
the oceanic pleasures of roasted prawns.

Roasted prawns with dipping sauce
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To make roasted prawns with two dipping sauces for four diners, you will need:

  • 1kg prawns in the shell, heads on
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3g coarse salt
  • 3g black pepper

Sauce #1: Aioli

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 yolk
  • 175ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Sauce #2: Kinda, sorta, Thai

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  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 leaves fresh dhania
  • 2 spring onion leaves
  • 1 big red chilli
  • 5g brown sugar
  • 15ml Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 30ml fresh lime juice

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Remove the colon (the ‘vein’) of each prawn. Arrange the prawns in one layer on a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper. Stick them in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Take out, and remove the shell from each prawn. You can, if you wish, leave the tail on to give the diner something to hold while dipping the prawn into the sauce. Reserve under cover while you whip up the sauces.

Sauce #1, the aioli, is no big deal. In fact, nothing in this meal is a big deal except the pleasure of eating it. Separate the yolk from the whole egg, which should be at room temperature. This is a vital piece of aioli finesse; ignore it and you’ll end up with a puddle of inedible slime.

Finely chop the peeled garlic then mash it with a generous pinch of salt to form a paste. In a bowl, mix three quarters of the salted garlic paste with 3ml tap water, a second generous pinch of salt and the room-temperature egg yolk. Mix. With a ball whisk, whip the mixture while dripping in the oil, very slowly and in small amounts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in little dipping bowls for each diner.

Sauce #2 is even less of a big deal. Slit the chilli and discard the pips. Measure the quantities of lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Crush, peel and finely chop the garlic plus the depipped chilli. Chop the spring onion greens and tear by hand the leaves of washed fresh dhania. Combine everything in a bowl. Stir, then let it settle for half an hour or so to allow the flavours to combine. Serve in dipping bowls for each diner.

Dinner time! Plate the roasted prawns on warmed plates with some rice or noodles as backup. Maybe scatter a little freshly ground black pepper over the prawns. Eat by hand, dipping the prawns into the sauces. In my philistine view, nothing complements this meal better than an ice-cold lager. My cultured friends tend to prefer a cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

It hardly matters – just eat, drink and be happy.