This is the most popular dish I have ever served at a course. Four years ago I watched 24 Cooks , over a period of 16 classes, completely silent, gathered around 2 large baking dishes in different kitchens, shamelessly double dunking their bread, mopping up the sauce, licking their fingers and smacking their lips.
It’s just that type of dish: Feasting with friends, sharing the sauce, a little tug-of-war with the dish and breaking of bread.
Growing up, Christmas was always celebrated in our holiday apartment in Umhlanga and each year the menu featured prawns on a Skottel braai, with garlic butter. When the prawns were scooped up, the gritty pan was deglazed with cream (and sometimes a splosh of beer or champagne) and the creamy prawn broth was then poured over the prawns, so that the heads could be sucked and the bread could be dunked.
This was the inspiration for my Christmas starter. Roasting or grilling the prawns does not offer much in terms of a beautiful sauce so I set about creating a recipe to rival my childhood Christmas meal.
Years later and I still receive messages, compliments and success stories of this simple dish and the joy of sharing.
OVEN BAKED PRAWNS (8/16* see notes below)
1.6kg (about 40) good sized prawns, unpeeled and cleaned ( I used 2 boxes of Tiger 16/20)
150g salted butter, 2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of about 3-4 lemons)
1 small tub Danish feta/modified cheese
1 sachet Woolworth’s sun dried tomatoes in oil and vinaigrette
¾ cup chopped Italian parsley
1. Pre-heat the oven to your highest setting or 260˚C
2. Arrange prawns on a baking tray or in a casserole dish (the timing is for a shallow dish)
3. Melt the butter, garlic and salt and then add the lemon juice and the whole sachet of tomatoes (including the marinade)
4. Stir to break up the tomatoes (or snip with a scissors) and pour over the prawns
5. Cover the prawns with foil and place in the oven for 8 minutes
6. Remove the foil, break up the Danish feta and sprinkle the parsley over the prawns
7. Return to oven for about 3 minutes or until cooked
8. Remove from oven and serve with sliced French loaf bread to soak up the sauce or on rice, couscous or angel hair spaghetti
*These prawns are well sized and serve 8 people as a main: That’s serving 6 prawns per man and 4 prawns per woman. They would serve 16 people as a starter or alongside another main such as chicken. Add extra feta and tomato to taste.