Gamberi in Salsa Dolceforte

Looks like it’s a silver and spoon kind of week. You know that feeling when one cooking book just seems to answer all your questions right there and then? That is the feeling I have with The Silver Spoon this week. Needless to say my commitment to the Italians might vanish by the weekend, and I could find myself musing over the English (Gordon, Jamie or Nigel). For the moment though la vita e bella. On the other hand being home and leafing through my cookbooks, being able to decide what I eat tonight according to my own cravings – and not a restaurant’s menu – is pure bliss.

After a TLC weekend, cozing up on the couch – will the winter ever end? – this week I decided to have a healthier approach to food. The luxury of coming directly home every evening after work also plays a role. I now have breakfast, pack lunch AND cook dinner. Yey-hey! All this combined with a weekend in Brussels where I was able to go to the market and buy fresh ingredients (you know the ones where the dirt is still on, and no packaging in sight!).

Prawns. I love prawns. They are versatile, so easily used in many recipes and they do make the best finger food in the world! What I don’t love about them is the peeling and pulling off the heads. Nothing I particularly hate about it, but when you get 1/2kg of raw prawns ready for dinner it takes courage. And good music.

Dinner was not finger food, but an adaptation of Gamberi in Salsa Dolceforte, which translates to prawns in strong sweet sauce. At first, after reading the recipe I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I have cooked it, it will be a recipe to remember. An interesting combination of flavours and ingredients, which I have never used before, but it works – and no leftovers.

24 raw prawns (we used 1/2kg), peeled and deveined
5tbsp olive oil
2 carrots
½ onion finely chopped
we left out the 1 leek finely chopped and the 2 celery sticks finely chopped
50ml brandy
175ml dry white wine
200ml concentrated fish stock (not having any on hand, we used vegetable stock)
1 fresh thyme sprig, 1 bay leaf
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, chopped
2 lemons
1tbsp sugar
plain flour for dusting
1/2tbsp ground cinnamon
50gr sultanas
1tbsp pine nuts
salt and pepper

First, bravely, pull the heads off, peel and devein the prawns. Keep the heads and shells. Heat 3tbsp olive oil, add the heads and shells, the carrots, celery, onion and leek and cook over low heat, stirring for 5 min.
Add the brandy, cook until evaporated, then add the white wine and bring to the boil.
Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf and tomatoes, and simmer till thickened.
Strain the stock into a clean pan and return to the heat. Simmer until reduced to 5tbsp, remove from the heat and reserve.
Thinly pare the lemons, and cut the rind in very thin batons. Blanch the rind in three separate changes of boiling water (we actually did this, although to be perfectly honest I felt very silly doing it – or very chef’y, as you wish – but it was useful. The lemon bitterness was gone).
Place the batons in a small saucepan with the sugar and 2tbsp water; bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, and the lemon rind is coated in syrup.
Squeeze the lemons and strain the juice;
Lightly dust the prawns with flour. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the prawns, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, add the reserved stock, lemon juice, lemon rind, sultanas and pine nuts, and mix well;
A rucola salad on the side, and it was a dolceforte bliss.
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