School prawns are a glorious and tasty treat – they are easy to use and don’t require any fiddly preparation as you can eat the whole thing, head and all. There are lots of good, fresh local school prawns available in NSW and, unlike a lot of seafood, prawns are a product that actually freeze quite well, so they are readily available. There is lots of beautiful young garlic around at the moment, a perfect frying accompaniment that gives a great subtle garlic flavour.
Preserved lemon aïoli
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tsp river salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp preserved lemon, finely diced
- 300 ml grapeseed oil
- 50 ml olive oil
- an extra squeeze of lemon
- 3 young garlic, stalks attached
- 150 g school prawns
- 100 g chickpea flour
- river salt and white pepper
- oil, for deep-frying
- lemon wedge, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl. Add the salt, lemon juice and preserved lemon, whisking to combine. Slowly add the oils together in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Taste and add a little extra lemon juice, if necessary. Set aside. Store airtight in the fridge for up to a week.
Cut the garlic in quarters from top to bottom and then across, into about 6 cm pieces.
Place the prawns and garlic in a wide shallow bowl, sift the flour over the top and season well. Use tongs to thoroughly mix, making sure everything gets a nice coat of flour.
Meanwhile, have a wide-based pot half full of oil heated to 180°C.
Use your tongs to gently lower in the prawns and the garlic, give them a little jiggle with your tongs to separate, giving everything an occasional twirl around in the oil as it fries. Depending on the size of your pot, you should be able to do this in one batch.
Cook the prawns for about 5 minutes, or until everything starts looking golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon from the oil onto some paper towel. Give them a good season and serve immediately with the aïoli on the side and a wedge of lemon.
• At this time of year, you should be able to find young garlic that is thin and almost looks like a small leek or a shallot. These are ideal, as they have delicious green leaves attached, which fry up very nicely. If you can only find it in young bulb form, that’s okay too – just make sure you prepare it a little differently before frying (cut it into 1 cm slices instead).
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.
Flared dinner plate and bread plate, both from Mud. Mulberry dessert fork and spoon from The Chef and The Cook. Prawns from Cleanfish Australia, 10 Baker St, Banksmeadow, NSW.