Thursday, 31 October 2013

Prawn Saganaki

In some parts of Greece I understand this dish is called youvetsi – after the name of the dish it is cooked in, but to me it will always be Prawn Saganaki, as it was when I first tried it in gorgeous Corfu.

A lovely Greek lady, Angelliki, gave me the basics for this recipe when I enjoyed it at her hotel taverna back in 2008, when I was working as a holiday rep and would hungrily demolish many a meal prepared by this lovely lady. She was an inspiration in many ways – as well as working many hours with her husband Costas at the hotel they only managed, not owned, she prepared the majority of the food that was served there, and had two beautiful young children who she was always running around after too. They were a very generous couple always trying to feed me up and happily, were open to sharing the odd recipe too. A tiny couple of tweaks, to accommodate what is readily and affordably available in sunny Essex and here is the recipe below.

If you can get hold of them the sauce is much improved my having large shell-on prawns, and these also make for an impressive looking dish too, but for an affordable mid-week meal, ordinary prawns are just fine. I serve with a side salad and some simple fresh bread and it makes for a delicious taste of the Med, especially comforting now the colder nights are drawing in.

Here’s how:

200g fresh, raw prawns
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
150g feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps dry white wine (Retsina for traditionally Greek saganaki)

Firstly you need to make a good tomato sauce as the basis. I do this in an oven-proof skillet above the hob so you can continue the cooking all in the one pan. The depth to which you prepare the sauce depends on how much time you have – obviously if you want a rich sauce, cook for longer, but if time is short, then a quick sauce is more than sufficient – especially mid-week.

To prepare your sauce add the olive oil to the pan and place over a low-mid heat. Dice the onion as finely as possible and crush the garlic and add both to the pan. Once softened (after 5-10 minutes),  add the wine and cook off – this will take another 5 minutes or so on a medium heat.

Next add the chopped tomatoes. Again you can of course use fresh tomatoes for this dish as and when they are available. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper here and the teaspoon of brown sugar and stir through. Add half of the chopped parsley and oregano and all of the lemon thyme to the sauce and cook over the hob for thirty minutes – or longer if you have the time.

In the meantime, chop the feta in cubes – I prefer this to crumbling the cheese as in the finished dish you are left with lovely gooey, delicious feta.

Taste the sauce and if you feel it needs it add further salt and/or pepper. Remove the lemon thyme stalks as they are unpleasant to bite into and will have imparted their flavour into the sauce now

Arrange the feta around the dish and sprinkle the rest of the parsley and most of the remaining oregano and place into a pre-heated oven at 180-200 degrees for fifteen minutes.

Remove the dish and add the prawns, scattering around as evenly as possible.

Return to the oven for a further five minutes, checking that all of the prawns have turned pink to show they are cooked through, and remove, ready to serve. Prawns take very little cooking so remove from the oven as soon as they have all turned pink to avoid being left with rubbery, overcooked prawns which are not tasty! Instead you should have delicious, succulent and juicy just-cooked prawns – lovely. Scatter over the remaining oregano before serving – enjoy!

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