I can think of nothing better than spending an afternoon barbecuing shellfish by the sea, especially if I’ve been out in my boat and had a successful catch in the lobster pots.
My friend Stuart re-baits the pots for me when I’m not by the coast, and I’ve even set up a saltwater tank in my store room to keep surplus lobsters fresh for sunny days.
Shellfish requires very little preparation. I like to use a wood-fired oven (I’ve got one in my garden) although a barbecue will work just as well. Wild garlic leaves go beautifully with these little beauties.
Mix a handful of the leaves with a little rapeseed oil and use the paste to baste the fish while it’s cooking. At the height of the shellfish season (it varies between crustacean species), I like to do a shellfish feast with everything from lobster and crab to prawns and mussels.
It’s a platter which tastes amazing, and looks the business in the middle of the table.
PIRI PIRI PRAWNS (SERVES 4)
Try to buy the largest prawns that you can find — good fishmongers these days tend to have a pretty broad selection and those gigantic ones are much more impressive.
Piri piri is an Angolan name for a type of chilli, and the term came to be used all over the Portuguese empire for hot meat and fish dishes prepared in the following way.
About 750g–1kg large prawns, preferably still with their heads and shells on
80g (or more to taste) mild red chillies
Half a red pepper, deseeded
4–5tbsps olive oil
A good pinch of salt
Lemon or lime wedges to serve
1 | If, like me, you prefer leaving the shells of your prawns on, use a sharp, serrated knife to cut into the back of the prawn and remove the black vein. Rinse the prawns carefully under cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper. If you prefer them peeled, simply remove the body shell, leaving the head and tail attached.
2 | In a blender or liquidiser, blend the chillies, red pepper, olive oil and salt until smooth, then mix carefully with the prawns and store in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of hours.
3 | You can either barbecue the prawns or cook them on a griddle pan. Preheat either well. Next, thread the prawns onto a metal skewer. Cook the prawns for 2–3 minutes on each side if they’re medium-sized, or for a couple of minutes extra if they’re large. Turn the prawns if they begin to burn (or move them to a cooler part of the barbecue). Serve with lemon or lime wedges.
Photographs by Jason Lowe