For those that don’t know me well, I used to commercial fish here on the West Coast of Canada. I mostly deckhanded with my dad, occasionally I deckhanded on other boats too. Over the years I fished salmon, prawns, shrimp and halibut and each fishery was different. May in BC is the start of a short Spot Prawn season, a fishery that is run very sustainably with very little by-catch. Each boat must have a license which allows for a set amount of traps which fishers are allowed to pull up from the sea once per day during daylight hours. Prawns tend to live along steep cliffs and shores and because of the way they are processed on board, boats often fish in relatively sheltered areas. Live prawns need to be kept safely alive in tanks and prawns getting processed for freezing at sea need accurate weighing, measuring and packaging.
This makes for a pretty nice fishery-one where you actually get to sleep at night and get to shore occasionally to explore the inlets, old logging camps and beaches (as long as there is no broken gear that you’re staying up to fix before morning). If I sound sentimental, it’s because I am. Although there were times I was exhausted and never wanted to see another prawn again, there were many more times of seeing amazing untouched beauty away from civilization, seeing sea creatures I never knew existed and of course eating all the fresh prawns!
My brother and I who spent a few seasons deckhanding together would ceremoniously eat the first prawns of the season raw before then cooking up a feast. Often we ate them steamed or pan fried with garlic butter (cook gently just until opaque and immediately remove from heat so they don’t over cook) but after we’d had our fill, it was time to get creative. I can’t count the number of recipes we tried over the years but it was a lot! Today I’m sharing two recipes, Spot Prawns In Fennel Tomato Broth and simple Grilled Prawns.
These are both delicious and easy, the first because the broth can be made ahead and then gently reheated to poach the prawns in and the second recipe needs nothing more than a hot grill and a little herbed garlic butter to baste with. The spot prawn season will only last a month or two so be sure to get down to your local fishing wharf or fishmonger to buy some fresh or frozen at sea, you won’t be dissappointed! (Here in Campbell River you can buy live prawns at Crabby Bob’s at the fisherman’s wharf)
Spot Prawns In Tomato Fennel Broth
Poaching the prawns whole with head on is great for added flavour and for those who love slurping the juice from the top of the prawn (set out a bowl for empty shells) but if you’re not comfortable with that or you just want your dinner to be a little tidier, go ahead and shell the prawns first before cooking.
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Shallot, Finely Chopped
- 1 Garlic Clove, Minced
- 1/2 tsp Anise Seed
- Pinch Hot Pepper Flakes
- 1 Large Tomatoes, 1″ Dice
- 1 Bulb Of Fennel, Whites 1″ Dice And Fronds Reserved For Garnish
- 2 c Vegetable Broth
- 1 Navel Orange, Zested And Juiced
- 2 lb Prawns, Left Whole Or Peeled
- 1 Bunch Parsley, Coarsely Chopped For Garnish
In a wide saucepan with high sides (see picture), heat olive oil on medium heat and saute shallot, garlic, anise seed and hot pepper flakes until onion is translucent but not browned.
Add tomato and cook until mushy, then add fennel and saute until slightly softened.
Add broth, orange zest and juice and bring to a simmer. Prepare bowls in a warm oven, bread or toast if serving and set table. Once you are ready, add prawns to broth and cook just until opaque.
Once prawns are cooked, serve them in bowls immediately with plenty of broth and garnished with fennel fronds and parsley.
Grilled Peel And Eat Spot Prawns With Garlic Herb Butter
Delicious and easy, these large size shrimp are perfect to toss on the grill, basting a few times with garlic butter and herbs, then served on a platter with lots of napkins for your guests to eat, shelling them as they go.
My best tips? Cook the prawns minimally to avoid overcooking and serve them outside on a picnic table covered in newspaper for easy cleanup.
- 1 lb Fresh Spot Prawns Live whole prawns, fresh or thawed prawn tails
- 1/4 c Butter
- 2 tbsp Parsley, Finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic, Minced
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice, Fresh Squeezed
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 3-6 drops Hot Sauce, Optional
Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium high.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, melt butter, parsley, garlic and lemon juice together. Season with salt and pepper and optional hot sauce if using.
Organize your prawns, garlic butter, basting brush and a plate to put cooked prawns on beside the grill. Place prawns on the grill then baste with garlic butter and close lid for 1 minute. Open and flip prawns and baste again then close lid for 1 more minute.
Open lid and check prawns, removing any that are opaque through and let remaining cook until just opaque. Depending on the heat of your grill, this shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes. Once all prawns are on plate, drizzle remaining butter mixture over and serve immediately.