Mark Hix recipes: British shellfish are at their best at this time of year

Salt-water prawns have a far superior flavour to the varieties that are industrially farmed in Thailand and Indonesia

Saturday 24 October 2015 00:10

Our native prawns are not quite as large as some of those from hotter climes – but size isn't everything. I've had large imported prawns in the past that certainly look the part but failed miserably in the eating. If you can get your hands on British prawns and shrimps at this time of year it will certainly be worth the effort.

Salt-water prawns have a far superior flavour to the varieties that are industrially farmed in places like Thailand and Indonesia, so be sure to check the provenance . The best taste of all comes when they are bought shell-on. Once peeled, don't throw away the shells – they can be used to make a delicious stock, which you can freeze for future use.

Brown Shrimp and spring onion fritters

Serves 4 as a starter or more as a snack

Whole native brown shrimps are perfect for this. Otherwise you could use peeled normal prawns if you are a bit squeamish about heads and shells. Serve this as a starter or better still as a snack with drinks.

150g brown shrimps in the shell
8-10 spring onions, shredded on the angle
1tsp ground cumin
½tsp chilli powder
1tbsp chopped coriander
3tbsp preferably gluten-free self-raising flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cold water to mix
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Mix all of the ingredients together and combine with enough water to make a light batter. Season.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Using a tablespoon, drop a spoonful of the mixture into the oil as a tester. Move around in the pan with a slotted spoon for a minute or so until golden, then transfer on to some kitchen paper. Taste and re-season or adjust with more water or flour as required, then repeat the cooking process with the rest of the mixture, one fritter at a time. The fritters should be light and crispy.

If you are cooking a large quantity you can briefly cook these without colouring them too much first, then you'll be able to finish them en masse in a pan of hot oil when ready to serve.

A hot soho Dubliner

Serves 4

We serve this in Hix Soho as a light lunch or bar snack. It's best to buy frozen raw scampi or Dublin Bay prawns for this – I never quite trust those pre-breaded ones you get in the supermarket.

Flour for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium egg, beaten
40-50g fresh white breadcrumbs
3-4tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1-2tbsp hot chilli sauce
1-2 heads of little gem lettuce, trimmed, washed and finely shredded
4 good quality hot dog rolls
20 frozen raw scampi tails, defrosted and dried on kitchen paper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Have three containers ready, one with flour which has been seasoned, one with the egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Pass the scampi through the flour, shaking off any excess, then through the egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 150-160C. Mix the mayonnaise with the chilli sauce to taste, then mix about a third with the lettuce. Cut the rolls down the centre but not all the way through. Spoon a little mayonnaise into the bottom of each one, then fill with the lettuce mixture.

Deep fry the scampi for 1-2 minutes until golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper. To serve, lay the scampi on the lettuce and serve with mayonnaise on the side.

Prawns with pink grapefruit and coriander

Serves 4

You need to find the best – and obviously freshest – prawns possible for this dish. For me, deep-red-shelled carabineros, the highly prized Spanish prawns, are one of the best to use, but the problem is trying to find a fishmonger who stocks them. Fresh prawns from British waters will also work really well, or just ask your fishmonger to source the freshest sea water prawns possible.

15-20 good quality, very fresh medium to large prawns, shelled and with the heads removed
1 small grapefruit, peeled, segmented and any excess juice squeezed and saved
1 -2 medium-sized red or green chillies, stems removed and flesh finely chopped
1-2tbsp chopped coriander
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Prawns with pink grapefruit and coriander

Cut the prawns in half lengthways along the back, removing the dark vein if necessary. Give them a quick rinse and dry with kitchen towel. Chop each grapefruit segment into 4-5 pieces and mix with the chilli, coriander and seasoning.

To serve, stir the prawns into the grapefruit mixture and leave for a minute for the flavours to soak in. Arrange the prawns on serving plates and spoon the juice over the top.

Sesame prawn balls with chilli

Serves 4

These are a bit like a high-end version of those greasy prawn toasts you get in cheap Chinese restaurants. You can serve them as a snack or a starter. To make them look really classy, you could try a mix of black and white sesame seeds.

16 medium-sized raw, large, sea-water prawns
2tsp finely grated root ginger
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2tsp sake or dry sherry
Sea salt
2tbsp sesame seeds
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Good quality chilli sauce, such as Linghams, to serve

Remove the heads and shells from the prawns but leave the tail attached. With a sharp knife cut the prawns in half, leaving half of the flesh attached to the tail. Chop or blend the rest of the meat finely.

Mix the ginger, spring onion and sake with the chopped prawn meat, then season. Divide the mixture evenly to the number of tails, and mould into a ball over each prawn leaving the tail sticking out at one end and pointing upwards. Lightly wetting your hands when doing this sometimes helps the mixture to stick. Dip the prawns carefully in the sesame seeds so they stick to the mixture. Ensure the flesh is covered and realign the tails if necessary.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 150-160C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer. Fry the prawns for 2-3 minutes until a light golden colour and drain on kitchen paper, then transfer to a serving platter with the sauce.

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