Last week we left things hanging with what to do with the heads and shells of the glorious langoustines which, I seriously hope, you did not overcook. The answer, in a word, is stock. If I had to pick one single difference between a pro and an amateur kitchen, I would point to the permanent access to lots of good stock of various varieties. The trouble is, you need quantities of the basics. Writing of prawn stock, a professional would probably suggest you start with a minimum of 2kg of shells.
Boys and girls, that’s not going to happen in your kitchen. If you are serving langoustines, you will probably allow 4, maybe 6, per person. You can remove heads and claws, but you’re not going to recycle the remainder from guests’ plates, with slathers of mayo, toothmarks etc. So be realistic. For the broth recipe below, I started with eight sets of heads and claws.
Secondly (and this applies to all types of stock), you have to decide at what stage of the proceedings you are going to start adding flavour. Many recipes will counsel you to add all sorts of things (generally known in the trade as aromats, short for aromatics). For years I was in the add-at-the-beginning camp; however, after a lesson at Martin Wishart’s cookery school I’ve changed my mind. The argument there was that you generally don’t know at the outset what you are eventually going to do with the stock. For that reason, it makes sense to delay any form of flavouring and seasoning until you do, so that your stock will better complement the final dish.
Langoustine Stock (Quantity will depend on the quantity of shells you have, doh!)
Take the heads, claws and any (clean) left over shells. Rinse them. If you can be bothered you will enhance the flavour by bashing them up a bit (not too small) and roasting with a drizzle of olive oil in an oven at 200°C/Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Put in a pan, add just enough water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Drain, allow to cool, and skim off any scum.
So, you have your stock – now what to do with it? Fish/prawn stock alone can be very strong, which is fine for an intense bisque, but can be overpowering. For the following broth I’m using equal amounts of chicken and prawn stock. But before that, let’s return to the crustaceans. Lobster and crayfish aside (the latter is a freshwater beast) the UK waters yield up about five other species of prawn ranging from the tiny brown shrimp to black tiger prawns. In our shops you are more likely to find the latter from south east Asia where they are farmed. There is no point in using langoustines in dishes with a long cook or too much heat – they will simply disintegrate.
Thai Style Prawn Noodle Broth
Ingredients (makes 500 – 600 ml)
300ml prawn stock; 300ml chicken stock; 4 (2 if they are large) shallots, finely chopped; 1 stalk lemon grass, bruised (bashed with rolling pin or the flat of a large knife) and cut into 3 or 4 sections; piece of ginger, about 3 cm, peeled and grated; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 1- 2 red chillies for the broth, plus one for garnish (optional); fish sauce; 2 limes; squeeze of tomato purée; olive oil; prawns, uncooked but peeled, if large sliced horizontally into thin slices; spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced into rings; noodles (your choice), 1 block per person; chilli flakes (optional); soy sauce (for the noodles – light is better).
The purpose of this stage is to give you a good aromatic stock which can be finished off quickly at stage two. Take half of the shallots (you could use the white parts of the spring onions) and soften gently in the oil along with the garlic, ginger and chilli, (or just one or two of the latter, depending on your preference). When the shallots are soft, add the lemon grass and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the two stocks, juice of half a lime and some fish sauce. Don’t worry about exact flavours – you’ll adjust this at stage 2. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain (reserving the liquid, obviously. Don’t laugh – I’m sure I’m not the only person who has mistaken a stock pot and a noodle pot and neatly strained a pot of stock down the sink. You only do it once, though.)
Have all the ingredients to hand and ready sliced/chopped. Soften the remaining shallots, then add the tomato purée. In a separate pan, boil the water for your noodles and put them on to cook. Return the strained stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Adjust the seasoning with fish sauce and lime juice. Add the prawns and anything else you want to cook in the broth. It could be slivers of chicken or pork, but cut into thin strips to be able to cook in a minute or two. When the prawns/whatever are cooked you are ready to serve.
Drain the noodles and season with soy sauce. Put one helping into each bowl and top up with the broth. Arrange the prawn slices on top, give an extra squeeze of lime juice, then either scatter with the chilli and spring onion, or put on the table for people to serve themselves.
Today’s second helping is a curry from the south of India. Until I visited I hadn’t realised that you can have a curry on the table in 10 minutes. This is akin to a stir fry. Make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and immediately to hand
Kerala Prawn Curry
The quantity of prawns per person is up to you. If they are large you may want to cut them up. It is neater if you shell them first. For my own part I don’t like having to shell prawns which are in a sauce, but your choice.
Ingredients (serves 2)
Tiger prawns (see above, possibly 3 good sized ones per person); 30ml vegetable oil, coconut if you have it; 1tsp fenugreek seeds; 100g thinly sliced onions; 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced; 10g ginger, finely julienned; 1 green chilli, finely julienned – leave the seeds in for extra heat if you like it hot; 2 curry leaves; large pinch turmeric; 60 ml water; 100ml coconut milk; 1 tsp lemon juice; salt; coriander, chopped (optional).
Heat the oil in a pan (stir fry heat) and add the fenugreek seeds. Add the garlic, ginger, green chill, onions, curry leaves and sauté till transparent, stirring frequently. Add the turmeric powder and water. Add the prawns with salt. When the fish is cooked, reduce the heat, add the coconut milk and simmer. After adding coconut milk, curry should not boil. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with coriander.