Prawn stars: Mark Hix's delicious and easy dishes


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Indy Lifestyle Online

Considering that they are scavenging sea insects, prawns and their relatives are wonderful things. Firstly, they have a fantastic flavour and secondly they invariably yield two meals; one using the actual meat itself, and the other in the form of a soup made from the shells, whether it be a velvety bisque or a clear consommé-like soup. Prawns freeze well and it's always handy to keep a packet in the freezer for those moments when you need a last-minute supper.

Frozen langoustines or Dublin Bay prawns, which are also known as scampi, are also a great standby for all sorts of dishes. Recently we have been receiving some live prawns from the West Country which we have been deep frying in milk and flour in their shells – they make wonderful snacks or a starter with freshly gathered hedgerow garlic blended into a mayonnaise.

Fried egg with leeks and prawns

Serves 4

This is a great dish to serve for a celebratory breakfast or brunch – or you could also present it as a simple and delicious dinner-party starter. You can use ducks' or hens' eggs for this, or even a double egg as a light main dish.

12 or so young or baby leeks, trimmed
4 ducks' or hens' eggs
1tbsp olive oil
120-150g prawns, cooked and peeled
60g butter
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the leeks in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender, and then drain them in a colander. Once cool enough to handle, cut them in half or into three if they are long.

Fry the eggs in the olive oil and season the whites while they are cooking. Slide them out on to warmed serving plates. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan and toss in the prawns, leeks and parsley until they are hot. Season and spoon around the egg white.

Cucumber and prawn salad

Serves 4

This is a lovely, fresh and simple dish that you could serve as a starter or as part of a buffet. Those small ridge or baby cucumbers are perfect for this as you can just slice them all the way through without trimming them.

1 large cucumber or 4-6 small ones
150-200g peeled weight of good-quality prawns

For the dressing

1tbsp chardonnay vinegar or good wine vinegar
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
The juice of 1 lemon
2tbsp chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you are using small cucumbers then make sure you slice them as thinly as possible lengthways on a mandolin or alternatively with a very sharp knife. If you are using large cucumbers then cut them in half and then again in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and slice the flesh.

Mix all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season. Mix the dressing with the cucumbers and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then toss the prawns in and serve.

Soup, made from prawns, langoustines or crayfish

Serves 4-6

The shells from prawns, langoustines or crayfish form the base for a truly great soup, especially those from langoustines. It's really worth saving them, as langoustines especially cost such a lot in the first place, and it's a shame if the shells end up in the bin.

A good knob of butter
500g-1kg cooked shrimps or langoustines or crayfish, shelled, or just about 500g of shells
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1tsp fennel seeds
A good pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
1tbsp tomato purée
100ml white wine
80g pudding rice
2 litres fish stock (made from good cubes is fine)
100ml double cream, to finish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the shells, onion, leek, garlic, fennel seeds, saffron, bay leaf and thyme for 4-5 minutes with a lid on, stirring every so often.

Add the tomato purée, white wine, pudding rice and fish stock, season and bring to the boil.

Simmer very gently for 1 hour then blend in a liquidiser until smooth and strain through a fine sieve.

Re-season if necessary, add the double cream and simmer for another minute.

You can serve this dish with some chopped or whole prawns or langoustines and a chopped herb such as tarragon, parsley or chervil.

Five-spice duck livers with Dublin Bay prawns

Serves 4

This is a little Asian surf'n'turf number and I've added frozen podded edamame to create extra colour and texture. Don't go mad with the five-spice, or it will overpower the dish. You can buy the edamame in good Asian supermarkets.

200g cleaned duck livers, cut into even-sized chunks
1tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A couple of good pinches of Chinese five-spice
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
60ml rice wine or sherry
100ml chicken stock
60g butter
16-20 pieces of frozen, peeled scampi tails, defrosted
80g podded weight of edamame

Season the livers with salt, pepper and five-spice. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the livers on a medium heat for a minute or so on each side until they brown nicely. Remove the livers; drain on kitchen paper. Add the shallots to the pan; cook for a minute, pour in the rice wine or sherry and stock and simmer until reduced by half. Add the scampi and edamame; simmer for a minute, then stir in the butter until the sauce has emulsified. Re-season if necessary and serve.