Prawns in Heaven

Eating in Mum’s home has mainly been great. Of course, there have been a few odd disasters, here and there, but none that really stick in the craw. Cooking in the Murdock household has always been about flavour and quality, even when we were teenagers and ate tonnes of plastic bread and margarine on the side. If flavour means that a few bones or stones get left in, so be it; mum hasn’t got the patience to fish them out (poor dad, how he has suffered) and she’s sure it improves everything.

The guaranteed meal to cause fights over the last few droplets of sauce; the one which is devoured in mere morsels of time is my mum’s Prawn Sauce. Magpie has to admit with shame that she has no definitive idea as to how mum makes it. It appears to be a roux and we know most of the liquid comes from fish stock bouillon but whenever she’s eaten it made by Magpie, Mother has declared that it’s not quite right.

Whatever the method, the recipe below is as close to the real thing as Magpie’s imagination can take us. Since we only ate it at Mum’s house under a week ago, we can both testify that this one tasted the same, at least to our uncouth tastebuds.

Prawn Sauce with Pasta

Serves: seriously, this serves 2. If there are more of you, you need more of everything.

Make up about 450ml fish bouillon, using a fish stock cube.

Saute some onion and garlic until soft. You can either leave them in the pan or reserve them for later.

Gently melt about 1oz butter and stir in just under 1oz plain flour to make a paste. Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree and heat gently, scraping the wooden spoon or curly whisk across the bottom of the pan. Stir, stir, stir; the flour and puree must cook.

Take it off the heat for a moment and begin to incorporate the stock, a little, then more, then still more, vigorous stirring is the name of the game. Keeping the heat at medium, stir until the sauce thickens. Add the onions et al to the sauce if you reserved them earlier and let them cook in the unctuous, orange sauce.

Cook the pasta – big shells are best because they hold the most sauce and whole prawns.

Take the sauce off the heat and add about 180g bag frozen, cooked, coldwater prawns (shrimps in the States) and a handful of parsley. For the first five minutes that the pasta is cooking, just let the shrimps defrost in the sauce.
As the pasta reaches the halfway cooked point, put the sauce back on a gentle heat and allow it to go as far as boiling for a few seconds. Stir it around as it begins to bubble quietly.

A Short Rant About Should and Shouldn’t When Cooking Prawns

The prawns require protection from being boiled. Their short existence before death gives them the right to expect freedom from being overcooked. What a waste of a death is an overcooked food, whether it’s steak, a dry turkey or bacon burnt to a cinder.
Prawns shouldn’t be rubbery or chewy. They aren’t Haribo sweets; they were living creatures before and they deserve a better destiny. They shouldn’t be curled up tight, with the texture of a power ball. Their flesh should have bite, with malleable resistance between the teeth. Inscisors should be able to slice straight through them – they shouldn’t need grinding and scraping through molars. Okay, we’re done with the lecture.

Treat the prawns in this sauce with respect. They just need heating through, not boiling to double death.

Get the pasta into the bottom of a couple of deep dishes and ladle the green speckled, orangey sauce over the shells.