Memories flash past like clips from a video with pieces missing. Those moments we swore we’d never forget, gone. The film turned from exciting to mundane with all the best bits absent.
Taste can be a great awakener, biting into a cake like your Granny used make can evoke tender, lost times. The mix of spices and flavour of coconut, taking you to moments on your Gap Year in the Thai floating market. For me, the instant I taste the broth from the cooking of shellfish, sweet with shallots and tart with white wine, I’m back in Honfleur. A five year old on a long forgotten foraging trip to the beach.
As I munched on my crispy morning baguette the rich, smooth butter squeezing between my teeth like cream on a scone, I could hear the plans being made for the day. We were off to the seaside. A thrill of excitement ran across my tiny shoulders as I thought of the warm sand and sparkling sea. Of course it would be warmer than Brighton, we were in France.
I could barely see the beach as we drove past the steep grass covered dunes, splashes of blue just visible between the swaying stalks. The sea salt smell wafting through the window on the sultry breeze. In the car park excitement got the better of me, I grabbed my goggles and charged off towards the gentle waves. To my surprise, I was closely followed by my uncle and aunt. Instead of spreading blankets and choosing sheltered spots amongst the dunes, they were setting off along the beach with buckets and spades.
Every few steps they’d stop, pick something up from the wet sand and move on. The beach had been chosen not for castles but for clams. My uncle had developed a technique for feeling them through the sand. He’d wiggle his toes and then bend down and clunk, another clam to fill the bucket. The wide wet sand giving endless opportunity for this fabulous forage.
Back at the tent, the battered buckets would be lined up on the red topped folding table, a wedge of card under one leg to keep it steady. The two cooking rings going full tilt, a slight smell of gas escaping from the cylinders, mixing with the scent of wet grass as the dew fell. Large saucepans, dulled with time, were gently cooking shallots and garlic in butter, adding to the heady fragrance of evening. A clatter of clams broke the silence as the days ‘catch’ was poured into the pans and the lids firmly placed on top, after a generous glug of wine was added. I watched in wonder, knowing the sweetness that was to come.
After a few minutes and a couple of shakes the gas was switched off, the lid lifted and the heady smell of clams, garlic and shallots hit the air. Lavish piles of shells were ladled into individual bowls, sprinkled with chopped parsley and yet more crispy baguette slathered with butter for dipping into the steaming broth.
Thanks to those memories, I often make this dish using plump prawns, as I’m now allergic to all other shellfish, they’re easy to get hold of and still bursting with all those unforgettable flavours.
Prawns With White Wine, Shallots And Garlic
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 15 g Salted butter
- 4 Banana shallots
- 3 clove Garlic
- 350 ml Dry white wine
- 2 sprig Fresh thyme
- 1 Fresh Bay leaf
- 28 large Raw prawns with the shells on
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the butter and the shallots. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic, stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes. Add The thyme and bay leaf. Do not let the onions or garlic brown.
- Peel 3 of the prawns and chop, place the shells in the pan with the shallots and cook, to release the flavour, for 5 minutes. Remove the shells.
- Add the wine and allow to simmer for 5 couple of minutes to cook off the alcohol. Then add the chopped prawns and the remaining prawns. Cover with a lid and leave for 3 minutes, remove lid and turn the prawns so that the pink side is uppermost and grey nearest the bottom.
- Cook for a further 2 minutes until all the prawns have just turned pink, remove from the heat and serve in large bowls with bread to mop up the juices.
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