Mulloy’s of Baggot St. sell these large prawns called Gambas, which come from somewhere off the coast of Portugal. They’re very expensive but worth the price I think. Four each is plenty, three ideal. Any more is sheer piggery.
I use a cast iron skillet for cooking the gambas because I like the blackening/burning it imparts, but you could equally use a heavy pan and oven combination. Whatever works for you …
The timing of this dish is critical since you ideally want all three elements (pasta, flavoured oil and gambas) ready at the same time when you’re assembling it. Overcook any of the elements and it’ll be disappointing. Therefore, I’d rate this as a medium-stress dish with a high toothsomeness quotient.
12 large gambas, whole (~15cm stem to stern)
4 cloves of garlic, shaved in slices – think Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1 large handful flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp sunflower oil
1 red chili, finely sliced on the diagonal, seeds and pith discarded
linguini (or spaghetti)
quarter tsp berebere
I’m adopted a NASA-style convention for the countdown coz that’s how I am – part engineer, part cook.
[T -40] Rinse the gambas under running cold water and pat dry. Put them in a large bowl, pushing in various feelers, legs and other unknown appendages. Sprinkle over two roughly chopped cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp of the sunflower oil and then the berbere – paprika will do fine instead. Mix together and set aside for 31 minutes. This flavouring ultimately ends up on your fingers during eating and is actually for licking off – I’m not sure it imparts any discernible flavour to the flesh. But, y’know, whatever you like yourself, you could add Marmite if that’s what you’re into. [T -30] Turn your oven to 200 C. [T -20] Set a large pan of water to boil and start warming a large circular bowl for presenting the dish – square or rectangular won’t do as they’d ruin the angular juxtaposition of the toothsome crustaceans. [T -15] Stick your pan on a low gas to warm or heat your skillet to ferocious. [T -11] Next thing to do is start your linguini cooking (depending on the brand & cooking time). [T -9] Put your gambas on the skillet or pan, scraping all the oily, garlicky goodness in on top. Cook for 3 minutes a side, or until you’re confident they’re cooked through. I generally finish them off in the hot oven for a further three minutes just to be sure. Nothing like a bad prawn to give you a future aversion to seafood. [T -6] Finely chop your parsley and set aside. Next, heat the remaining sunflower oil in a small pot and add the shaved garlic – the idea is to cook the garlic till it turns crispy and caramelised. When it’s beginning to brown, chuck in the sliced chili. When the garlic is crispy, remove from the heat and add the olive oil for flavour. Keep warm. The oil, garlic & chili that is, you yourself will be positively glistering with kitchen activity.
[T zero] Drain the pasta and put into your pre-warmed circular bowl with a tbsp or two of the cooking liquor, pour on the garlic and chili and mix in the parsley. Arrange the gambas on top and serve immediately with a chilled white wine and finger-bowls. Oh, and a bowl for heads and other discarded body parts.
Feeds 3 or 4.