Once upon a time, in the land of Café Zoe, I happened to order prawn and calamari ajillo. It stunned me. I had never had something as simple and delicious as that before. I dragged person after person to Zoe to eat it and every one agreed. C’est Magnifique! I also reasoned that if it felt so simple to taste, it had to be equally simple to make.
I’ve tried a multitude of recipes for this dish (usually without the calamari, I love prawns) and each seems to have met with its own success. The recipe I’m putting down here is an amalgamation of both and is so good that at our last dinner party, I watched someone continuously dip bread into the broth even after dessert. YAY!
You will need
300 grams/ 1 packet Medium sized Prawns (either de-shelled or with tails on - tails give it a deeper flavour, but I usually use them entirely de-shelled)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced + 2 cloves thinly sliced (this is for the lovely visual appeal of flakes of garlic in the broth)
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika or Indian red chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
Between 125 and 175 ml olive oil (depending on how many prawns you use)
2 bay leaves
3 tsp chopped fresh parsley (for garnish if you wish)
1 large lemon for juice
1 fresh baguette, sliced
In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about one minute or until they just begin to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
Cook for a minute, and then add the bay leaves, lemon juice, white wine and paprika. Stir and let it cook together for about two minutes.
Raise the heat to high and immediately add the prawns. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the prawns turn pink and curl – about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
I like this dish to have a lovely delicious broth to go with it. Make sure you taste the sauce, if it's too olive oily, add more white wine and lemon juice. If it's too lemony, add more chili flakes and wine.
Remove from heat and transfer prawns with oil and sauce to a warm plate or serve right from the pan. Remove the bay leaves before you serve, or leave in as a pretty garnish. An alternate garnish is the finely chopped parsley, which I never ever use, but you can.
Serve with freshly toasted slices of crunchy baguette, a wedge of lime and a glass of very cold white wine or cold beer.
You don't necessarily have to use the wine, I didn't the first time around and it was equally awesome. I used it in London because I was trying something else, and that worked too.
Experiment with the amount of oil you're using - its an amazingly delicious dish, but too much oil makes it very heavy and overpowers the flavours.