Two memories are lodged in my mind when it comes to these prawns. One is of a meal at Mar do Inferno, in Cascais, a town which we visited with my parents and our little daughter. Here, the sea crashes against jagged cliffs just below the restaurant. We tried these messy, delicious, chilli-hot prawns, and our daughter, Isla, then a toddler, tried to eat a whole scoop of ice cream with both hands. The meal was a sticky, happy, silly one.
The second was in Hugo Gonçalves’ sunny garden. His family owns art-deco cocktail bar Foxtrot in Lisbon. His mother, Maria Helena Gonçalves, or Lena, cooked us a huge pan of wonderful prawns. She adds a warming dash of whisky to her version.
Like piri piri sauce and pepper paste, this is another essential store-cupboard ingredient for Portuguese cooking, and it gets splashed into and over all sorts of savoury dishes, lending them a warming, rich flavour. As well as a finishing touch for barbecue, chicken and fish dishes, I use it in salad dressings and even add it to grilled cheese sandwiches.
This wonderfully fragrant green rice is great with both meat and fish. Be sure to use really fresh coriander (cilantro) as it is a key component in this dish – coriander that is even slightly too old can have an unpleasant flavour. Coriander is native to southern Europe and is often found growing wild. It is used very widely in Portuguese cooking, and cooks are extremely picky about its quality and freshness when they go shopping.
Rebecca Seal and Steven Joyce’s Lisbon cookbook is available now.
Spicy Garlicky Prawns
- 4 tablespoons piri piri sauce, medium/hot store-bought or see recipe below, or to taste, plus a pinch of dried crushed chillies, if you really like heat
- 1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
- 2 tablespoons white wine, or 2 tablespoons beer
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 500 g 1 lb 2 oz shell-on, sustainably sourced large prawns (shrimp)
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1 handful chopped coriander/cilnatro leves, to serve
- Piri Piri Oil, see below, to serve
- lemon wedges, to serve
- Garlic & Coriander Rice, see below, to serve
- Mix together the piri piri sauce, garlic, white wine or beer and the Worcestershire sauce. Add the prawns, stir until they are well covered in the marinade, cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- When you are ready to eat, heat a large, wide heavy-based pan – cast iron is best – over a high heat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and when it is just smoking, use a slotted spoon to lift half the prawns out of the marinade, leaving the marinade behind. Place in the pan in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes, then turn each one. Cook for a minute longer and then, for the final minute of cooking, add half the marinade from the bowl. Let it sizzle and then use a spoon to scoop the whole lot out of the pan and into a bowl. Keep warm.
- Repeat the cooking process for the second batch of prawns. (If you cook them all in one go and include the marinade, the prawns will stew rather than brown, and the marinade will burn and stick to the pan.)
- Just before serving, stir through the chopped coriander and finish with a dash or two of piri piri oil. Place lemon wedges on the table for your guests to squeeze over their prawns. Eat with a mound of garlic and coriander rice, finger bowls and plenty of napkins.
Piri Piri Oil
- 10 piri piri or African bird’s eye chillies, washed and stems removed (not seeded)
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 zest of unwaxed lemon, shaved using a potato peeler
- 5 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, halved, or quartered if very large
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 1 litre extra-virgin olive oil, (34 fl oz / 4¼ cups)
- 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp whisky
- Thoroughly clean a 1 litre (34 fl oz) heatproof glass jar or wide-necked bottle (including the lid) in hot soapy water, then place it in a low oven for 15 minutes.
- Roughly bash the chillies so that they are bruised but still whole. Place them and all the dry ingredients, plus a tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil, in a large heavy-based saucepan and set it over a medium heat.
- Bring to a sizzle, stir and then turn the heat right down, then add the remaining oil and the lemon juice. Warm the oil until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Carefully pour the oil and all the other ingredients into the sterilised jar or bottle, using a funnel if needed. Seal and leave to infuse at room temperature for 1–2 weeks, out of direct sunlight, shaking it every now and then. It will keep for at least 1–2 months.
Garlic & Coriander Rice
- 400 g long-grain rice, (14oz / scant 2 cups)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch salt
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
- 100 g coriander (cilantro), leaves picked and chopped, stems reserved and finely chopped (3½ oz)
- Place the rice in a bowl and rinse it in three changes of cold water. Cover with fresh cold water and leave to soak while you cook the onion.
- Place a large saucepan with a lid over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the chopped onion and the salt. Sauté for 10–12 minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the garlic and the coriander stems along with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, but don’t let the garlic brown. Drain the rice and add it to the pan, then toast it in the oil for 1 minute, until it begins to look translucent. Pour in enough boiling water to cover by 1 cm (1/2 in) and bring to the boil. Cover, turn the heat down and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff up the rice grains with a fork, then cover tightly again and leave to steam for 5 minutes.
- To finish, remove the lid and fluff the rice again, then stir through the coriander leaves. Serve with meat or fish.
Recipes excerpted with permission from Lisbon by Rebecca Seal and Steven Joyce, published by Hardie Grant Books June 2017.