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Kitchen Memories and Garlic Chilli Prawn Pasta

Extra large Queensland prawns are a sweet dinner treat that brings back memories of my commercial kitchen days, sitting on milk crates for hours peeling the shells to reveal that meaty goodness. They’re abundant at my markets now and are best cooked (in my humble opinion) simply with some garlic, chilli and mung bean vegan spaghetti.

Prawns are my favourite seafood to eat and these days I don’t even mind that they’re slightly fiddly to prepare, I actually enjoy the whole process of prising the meat out of the shell after baking at high temperatures in a spiced chilli and garlic rub. But that hasn’t always been the case, waaaaay back in the day (14 years ago to be precise) when I worked as an apprentice chef at the National Convention Centre, I spent the day, the whole day, peeling prawns.

Cooking for large scale events was a regular occurrence, hours of my days were often spent doing the same task; slicing 50 kilograms of mushrooms, (I’d set myself challenges to chop blindfolded), piping 1000 beautiful butter rosettes, (you don’t know pain until you’ve done that), seal 700 beef fillets (tip for the ladies… men love when you smell like a walking chop), pre-plate 900 desserts (I got good at story telling coz captive audience, right?!), or in this case peel 4,500 prawns (shiver down the spine).

Not likely, but should you ever find yourself in an epic prawn peeling situation, here is what you are going to need to do: Claim a corner of the kitchen as your own, a milk crate with padding for bum comfort, blast tunes from the radio for entertainment and finger condoms under a tight fitting glove layering situation to save you from a world of prawn shell under nail hurt.

So tell me dear reader, how many prawns do you think you could peel in a minute? What were you doing in the year 2002? And when are you making garlic chilli prawn pasta? Seriously… when?

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time:  15 minutes

  • 200g mung bean vegan spaghetti (I use Eco Organics, they have amazingly delicious gluten free / vegan pasta)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed & finely sliced
  • 2 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 red chill, finely sliced (more if you love the heat)
  • 12 extra large raw QLD prawns
  • 50g crumbled fetta
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Parsley sprigs, to serve
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Step 1: Preheat oven to 200c. Lightly toss whole raw unpeeled prawns in 1 crusted and sliced garlic, quarter finely sliced chilli and tablespoon of olive oil. On a lined baking tray, evenly spread marinated prawns and bake for 10-12 minutes (or until cooked) do not overcook as this will make prawns dry and chewy. When cooked, remove prawn head and shells, leave tails intact.

Step 2: Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water following packet directions until tender. Drain. Cover to keep warm.

Step 3: Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan (a wok works too) over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic, chilli and season accordingly. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add zucchini and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes until cooked through.

Step 4: Add pasta and lemon zest and juice to pan. Cook, tossing, for 1 minute or until combined. Serve with peeled prawns, crumbled feta and finish with oil.

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