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Just say we have 1 kg (2 lb) of freshly caught prawns. (You may
have lots more - I hope you do.) If the prawns are alive, put them into fresh
water first and they will "bring up" any sand, etc. Have a big saucepan
ready with about 21/2 litres (5 pints) of water and bring to the boil; throw
in a handful (about 2 tablespoons) of common cooking salt - the good, old-fashioned
salt. Please do not use table salt. The salt helps to preserve the prawns if
they are not to be eaten straight away, and retains the heat of the boiling
water. Small school prawns should be cooked in 3 minutes, the larger prawns
in 4 minutes. To be sure, make a test: the prawns will come to the top of the
water and float, which is a good indication that they are nearly done. Take
out a prawn and hold it to the light. If it is cooked, you will see that the
flesh has shrunk from the shell slightly, and the prawn looks translucent. Be
careful not to undercook your prawns you will know if you have because they
will get a black look on part of the body when cold. As soon as you are sure
the prawns are done, remove them from the boiling water and place in a big bowl
of iced water, to cool them.
Now they're ready to peel, devein and eat with vinegar or lemon and bread and butter, or in salads, fried rice, curry and all the other dishes that call for cooked prawns. Don't forget to keep the prawn heads and shells to make stock. The same thing applies to frying them in butter in a pan look for the white to translucent look to determine if they are cooked.