Every time I wander around the market in Palma, I always find myself literally drooling over the stunningly fresh, locally caught red prawns from Soller. I don’t think it is possible to put anything finer in your mouth. With that intense, wild taste that just explodes when you bite into their firm flesh… I crave Majorcan prawns the way most pregnant women crave chocolate.
The best way to cook them is also the easiest. You just scatter a little sea salt over a very hot, flat grill and place the whole prawns on top. Let them sit for 20 seconds or so until they start to toast, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Wait another 20 seconds and scatter them with chopped parsley and crushed garlic. Turn them over, drizzle with a little more olive oil and finish cooking for another minute. You will be rewarded with an intoxicating aroma and one of the great taste sensations to be found anywhere in the world.
Eating Gambas de Soller is not for the meek or the timid. You have to get stuck in with your fingers and suck the prawns dry before you begin to wrestle the flesh from its crispy red casing. Some people might leave the head. This should be made illegal; as it is the tastiest part and pornographically good…ALL the prawn must be consumed.
You see these prawns are expensive and nothing should go to waste. The most important thing when buying Gambas de Soller is their freshness, which you can tell by the appearance of the shell: They should be a shiny, vibrant red colour, firm to the touch and elastic. If they have been preserved in ice, their head quickly darkens and their gastronomic value is lost. For this reason, it is best to consume them fresh from the sea. If you simply can’t handle eating the heads, save them as they make a wonderful sauce that will add a unique taste to the most humble fish dish.
Most tapas bars serve a dish called “Gambas con gabardina”, literally translated as “prawns in an overcoat” the Gambas are shelled, leaving just the top part of the tail, dipped in batter and deep-fried in hot oil until crisp.
Another simple, delicious tapa is Gambas al Ajillo. This can be made in a few minutes with garlic, prawns, olive oil and chilli peppers. It normally comes swimming in olive oil so having some crusty bread available to mop up the sauce is imperative.
GAMBAS CON GABARDINA
Ingredients serves 4-6
30 prawns, deveined & peeled but with the tip of the tail left on
2 large eggs
1tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
a pinch of paprika
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and paprika. Add the beer and leave in a warm room for 20 minutes. We are looking for a nice thick batter.
Heat about 2 inches of oil in a small pan over high heat. Dip each prawn into the batter (holding by the tail) and add to the oil.
They will cook very quickly. Cook for about 1 minute until golden brown.
Remove to a paper towel to absorb the oil. Serve hot with a little garlic aioli.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
Serves: 4 to 6
350g peeled Prawns
100ml extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red chili, finely chopped
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ lemon, juiced
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli and sizzle gently for a few seconds. Just as the garlic is beginning to take on a hint of colour, add the prawns. On high heat cook 1-2 minutes per side, until the little prawns are golden on the outside yet still moist inside. Remove from the heat; finish by sprinkling with parsley and lemon juice and serve at once, still sizzling.
GRILLED PRAWNS WITH MOJO DE CILANTRO
Ingredients: serves 4
450G Mediterranean prawns
5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ clove garlic, finely crushed
Juice 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
MOJO DE CILANTRO
Ingredients: serves 6
4 garlic cloves
1 green pepper (de-seeded)
350ml olive oil
100ml sherry vinegar
1tspn. Ground cumin
1 bunch of fresh coriander
Pinch of sea salt
Remove all the stalks from the coriander leaves and place them in a food processor with all the other ingredients. Blend to a smooth puree.
Place in an airtight container and chill until required.
For the Prawns:
Thread the prawns onto small skewers and place in a shallow dish.
In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Pour over prawns and leave for 30 minutes.
Lift the prawns from dish and place on a hot grill; brush with any liquid remaining in dish and grill for 2-3 minutes until bright pink.
Serve with mojo picon and lime wedges.