PEARL COUS­COUS WITH SHRIMP AND CLAMS

New Straits Times - - SUNDAY VIBES / LIVING -

Yield

4 serv­ings

TO­TAL Time

1 ½ hours

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

400g raw head-on, shell-on shrimp or tiger prawns (prefer­ably 12 ex­tra­jumbo shrimp or king-size prawns, but any size will work)

7 tbsp (105 millil­itres) olive oil 5 roughly chopped gar­lic cloves, plus 1 crushed gar­lic clove

Salt and black pep­per

1 small fen­nel bulb, finely chopped (about 1 heap­ing cup)

300g cherry toma­toes

2 lemons, 1 finely shaved to get 5 strips of peel and squeezed to get 1 ta­ble­spoon juice, and the other cut into wedges for serv­ing

5 tar­ragon sprigs (about 10g)

2 tbsp tomato paste

⅔ cup (150 millil­itres) Pernod (or a sim­i­lar anise liqueur)

1¼ cups (300 millil­itres) chicken or veg­etable stock

2 tsp fen­nel seeds

¼ tsp red-chilli flakes

1¼ cups (200 g) pearl (or gi­ant) cous­cous

250g small clams (about 12), such as Dorset, lit­tle­neck or Manila, rinsed well

meTh­ods

1. Twist the heads off the shrimp and place the heads in a medium bowl. Leav­ing the tails at­tached, peel off the shells, add them to the same bowl and set aside. Devein the shrimp, then add them to a medium bowl with 1 ta­ble­spoon oil, 1 crushed gar­lic clove, ¼ tea­spoon salt and plenty of pep­per. Mix to­gether and set shrimp aside to mar­i­nate for 30 min­utes or so.

2. Mean­while, heat a large saute pan, for which you have a lid, over high heat. Add 1 ta­ble­spoon oil, the chopped fen­nel and ⅛ tea­spoon salt. Fry for about 5 min­utes, stir­ring every now and then, un­til browned. Trans­fer the fen­nel to a plate, wipe the pan clean and re­turn to a high heat. Add the toma­toes and cook for 3 to 5 min­utes, toss­ing the pan every now and then un­til charred in places. Set the toma­toes aside. Leave the pan to cool for a cou­ple of min­utes, then wipe it clean and re­turn to a medium heat.

3. Add 3 ta­ble­spoons (45 millil­itres) oil to the pan along with the lemon peel, tar­ragon and the 5 chopped gar­lic cloves. Slowly fry for 5 min­utes un­til the gar­lic is golden and the tar­ragon be­comes bright green and crisp. Re­move half of the tar­ragon and set aside, to serve. 4. In­crease the heat to medium-high, add the shrimp shells and heads and fry for 7 min­utes, stir­ring every so of­ten un­til crisp and pink, ad­just­ing the heat as nec­es­sary so the gar­lic doesn’t be­gin to burn. Add the tomato paste and ½ tea­spoon salt, and fry for an­other 2 min­utes, stir­ring fre­quently.

5. Care­fully pour in the Pernod and let it bub­ble away for a minute (it may flame), then add the stock and 2½ cups (600 millil­itres) of wa­ter and sim­mer gen­tly for 12 min­utes, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally. Use a po­tato masher to crush the shrimp heads a few times as they cook to re­lease as much flavour as pos­si­ble.

6. Mean­while, in a sep­a­rate small pan over medium heat, add the fen­nel seeds and 2 ta­ble­spoons oil and cook un­til the seeds be­gin to pop. Set aside un­til ready to serve.

7. Strain the stock, dis­card­ing the shells, heads and aro­mat­ics, then re­turn to the same pan. (You should have about 3¼ cup, or 775 millil­itres, stock.) Add the lemon juice, chili flakes, cooked fen­nel, ¾ of the charred toma­toes and plenty of pep­per and cook at a bare sim­mer for 5 min­utes, or un­til the toma­toes be­gin to split.

8. Stir in the cous­cous, bring to a sim­mer then re­duce the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5 min­utes, un­til the cous­cous is cooked through but still re­tains a bite.

9. Add the clams, cover the pan and cook un­til they all open, 4 to 5 min­utes. Top with the re­main­ing charred toma­toes and set aside while you fry the shrimp.

10. While the clams cook, place a large, non-stick fry­ing pan over a high heat. Once it’s very hot, add half the shrimp, so as not to over­crowd the pan. Fry for about 1 ½ min­utes on each side, or un­til crisp and golden-brown on the out­side and cooked in­side, then re­peat with the re­main­ing shrimp.

11. Ar­range the shrimp, along with the gar­lic and any oil, over the cous­cous in the pan, then driz­zle the fen­nel seed oil over ev­ery­thing. Top with the fried tar­ragon and serve with the lemon wedges along­side.

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