Walking through leafy Surrey groves, watching blackbirds flit about gracefully, shooting their beady eyes around with the apparent curiosity they display, I am greeted by the unmistakable aroma of seafood and meat grilling over charcoal, as Brits across the nation no doubt steal this rare window. Its warm out, with a clear sky save for a few cotton candy puffs streaking the light blue. There is something really quite seductive about the visual treat of sunlight pouring through smoke filled branches of a tree laden with foliage. The density of growth entrances and captivates, and the freshness of the cooling breeze serves as a welcome respite from the close warmth of the sun.
Prawns. They’re really quite delightful. Strange little morsels of deliciousness. So versatile and so international. What country in the world doesn’t include prawns in its cuisine in one form or another? My Father waxed lyrical about the restaurants in Penang, Malaysia, where they would garnish the dishes with gargantuan Tiger Prawns, whereas in Blighty four of the critters will set you back fifteen sovs. Shocker. Amongst edible sea creatures their capacity to absorb flavour is unrivalled. Yet there are some detractors who feel that eating a “sea insect” is somehow ikky. Well I defy them to try this recipe and still feel the same way about our crustacean buddies.
You’ll need black treacle or molasses, red chillies, garlic, lime juice, olive oil and big juicy shell-on prawns. Stab the prawns viciously with a sharp little blade as though they done you wrong. Mix up a marinade with all the bits before bagging and chilling the lot. Two hours later throw them on hot coals and baste with the marinade as you flip them over and over. Okay I’ll let you in to a secret. I once made these at a garden party where an attractive blonde girl remarked that they were better than sex. That may have been the dipping sauce, which was made with Greek yoghurt, blended apricots and orange juice, cumin, paprika, lemon juice and coriander. Blend a handful of apricots and orange juice to make a pulpy puree which is added to the yoghurt and gently dry fried spices and stirred together then finished with the citrus tang and garnished with coriander.
The fresh fish van that comes to our high street every Saturday is such a joy. Today he was joined by approximately twenty violent wasps, who didn’t manage to phase him a bit. He softly laughed as he vowed to buy a racquet that fries the little varmints. More importantly he sold me a medium sized squid and a fairly hefty blue shark steak which I will be sure to wax lyrical about tomorrow. I’m thinking ceviches of blue shark with pink peppercorns, lime juice, brown sugar and lemongrass. He also had gigantic sea bass caught off Littlehampton, which I was frustratingly too slow off the mark for, but will definitely be back there next week. Like many foodies I derive a perverse pleasure from avoiding the supermarkets.