Spot prawns that are real jerks
This here is a combo post of two foodie things I was really excited about, and I wasn’t disappointed with either of them.
First. A great number of weeks ago, I bought some goat. I’ve made goat for this blog before, but this time I wanted to make my own spice mix for it, Jamaican-style. I Googled around and found a popular go-to cookbook and ordered it up from the library. I procrastinated doing up the goat (still in my freezer in the mystery meat section) but I loved the cookbook so much that I bought a used one for $6 including shipping on Amazon so that I could hang onto it. Look at this retro cover, people! You know with colours and fonts like that it must be good.The original printing was in 1990 and it’s been re-printed again and again. Helen Willinsky tells brilliant stories about cooking in Jamaica so that it’s part tourist guide, and the recipes are straightforward with simple ingredients. A great book.
And the second foodie thing I was excited about. Remember how I recently took a class about how to salt-bake fish? Well after that, I began to follow our local fishmonger, De la Mer, on Facebook, and they started sending alerts that B.C. spot prawns were about to arrive. Now that’s some FB advertising I can get into! I didn’t know what they were, but you know I had to have some.
Here is everything I know about B.C. spot prawns and why they’re different than regular shrimp. They’re only available for 60 days each year. They’re caught wild and have to be eaten fresh — so fresh that they’re one of the few shrimp that can be eaten raw and turned into ceviche. They’re one of the few sustainable forms of shrimp, because most shrimp we eat comes from Asia where wetlands are destroyed to farm them. Canada has only recently begun to hang onto these; we used to ship them all to Japan. They’re sweet, crunch, and you’re supposed to suck on the heads when you eat them. Don’t eat them old because they go mushy. And finally, they don’t come cheap. They’re about $3 per shrimp, so I only bought six.
So last night, we had a B.C. Jamaican night. Hey, if there are any Jamaicans reading this who live in B.C. I’ll give you some kind of prize! I took full advantage of Helen’s cookbook, making five whole recipes at once: Island Shrimp (which called for her Dry Jerk Seasoning and Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce), Fried Plantains, and Rice & Peas. Don’t think I’ve exhausted what this cookbook has to offer, though. There’s a whole cocktail section, plus many chicken recipes, stews, desserts… This book is going to get a lot of action in my kitchen.
Island B.C. spot prawns (check out that brilliant font. I’m kind of disappointed that there’s a new, more pro version of this book)
- Spot prawns with the heads and shells left on
- 1 bottle of beer (Red Stripe preferred, but I sacrificed one of my favs)
- 1/4C lime juice
- 2 tsp dry jerk seasoning
- 3/4C honey-ginger dipping sauce
Dry Jerk Seasoning
- 1 Tbsp onion flakes (I didn’t have these, so I omitted them and it still worked)
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp ground thyme
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp allspice (a critical Jamaican jerk ingredient)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 2 tsp dried chives or green onions
Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Okay. So this one I did differently from Helen’s, because I bought the wrong kind of tamarind. She calls for sweetened tamarind nectar, while I bought tamarind paste, which was like an unsweetened concentrated molasses. Mine was still good! If you want hers, buy her book. 🙂
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 1/2C water
- 1 thumb ginger root, grated
- 1 Tbsp dry jerk seasoning
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp water
Directions for Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce: Mix tamarind paste, honey, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ginger and jerk and boil another few minutes. Mix cornstarch and water in a separate little dish, pour in, and stir until thickened (should be almost immediate). Done!
Directions for B.C. Island Prawns: Mix up your dry jerk spices, and make your dipping sauce. Mix the ingredients above together and give your shrimp a marinade bath for 5 minutes.
Spot prawns shouldn’t be cooked for long, only about 30 seconds until they just turn pink, so this may be the fastest recipe you’ve ever done. Heat some oil and cook shrimp in a pan quickly, flipping once, or do the same in a greased grill basket on the BBQ.
Serve with the dipping sauce which can be hot (I chose this way) or cold.
Fried Plantains: Buy Helen’s book (and I didn’t get one free or any payment for saying this, I’m just telling you to do this because it’s good!)
Rice & Peas
- 1 1/2C canned red kidney beans
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 3C water
- 2 strips bacon, chopped
- 2C coconut milk
- Fresh pepper
- 2C uncooked white rice
Directions: Combine kidney beans, garlic, water, salt, coconut milk, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the rice and bacon and stir, and bring to boil again. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the liquids have been absorbed. Helen had a few more ingredients here and used dried beans, but I went with what I had and what I thought my kids would eat.
Definitely suck the heads out of those shrimp for a tasty treat (poor vegans who follow me, if there ever were any). Helen’s jerk seasoning gives just the right amount of flavourful spice, and there’s lots left over for future recipes. The rotten old plantains give a delicious char of sweetness, and the rice & peas with coconut milk and bacon add a richness over regular rice that I wouldn’t have expected. Very cool to bring the B.C. ocean and Jamaican Island to our landlocked ol’ Toronto for a night.
And now, for something completely unrelated, my daughter wanted me to post this pic and ask you if you like her lipstick (which she’s only allowed to wear out of sight on this holiday weekend).