Chilli, garlic and lemon prawns

A boldly flavoured tapas-style appetiser to open your evening’s eatings with a bang and a minimum of fuss.


If you want an appetiser that opens the evening’s eatings with a bang and a minimum of fuss, these quickly got-together prawns are your guys. As I’ve written elsewhere, I love a starter that I can leave in a guest’s hands to make while I occupy myself with something else (read: drink wine), and these are very simple and pretty much foolproof.

The flavours here are not shy and retiring. They can’t be: the cooking time is so short that we need to go for impact, not subtlety. It all begins with the olive oil. It must be extra virgin, fully flavoured, the more boldly fruity the better. You infuse it over gentle heat with chilli and garlic at first, then wind up the fire for a minute or two, just long enough to flash-fry the prawns. At the last second, you toss in a fiesta of lemon zest confetti and you’re done.

Eat them piping hot, straight from the pan if you like, with some rounds of good bread to be swiped through the oil, a glass of something crisp and cold alongside, and dinner will be off to a flying start.


For 2, as a starter.

60ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 long red chilli
1 lemon
250g (½ pound) prawns, peeled and cleaned, tails on
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Start with a cold, heavy based pan. Pour in the olive oil and add the clove of garlic, sliced thinly, and the chilli, deseeded if desired, sliced thinly. Put the pan over low heat and let everything warm through until the fragrance rises, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the prawns lightly with salt and pepper. Take the zest off the lemon with a zester or small, sharp knife and set aside.

Turn the heat up to medium. Cook the prawns for a minute a side. Stir in the lemon zest and serve immediately.