Quick spicy Spanish prawns

A popular bar snack to kickstart a great dinner at home.

Quick spicy Spanish prawns

These vibrantly flavoured prawns have their roots in a bar snack you find served throughout Spain, gambas al ajillo, which often arrives dramatically sizzling on a hot plate or in a small terracotta cazuelita.

They’re perfect to graze on with drinks, and so easy to make at home that they’ve found a natural place in my kitchen before the main event of dinner. I sometimes make and serve it in directly in my cast-iron skillet because it holds heat so well, alongside some rounds of sliced baguette to be dipped into the delicious spicy oil.

If you want to be a champion of efficiency – always useful when entertaining – the oil component can be made in advance, which also helps to infuse the flavours more deeply, and held at room temperature until needed, so it only has to be heated up for the final flash-frying of the prawns.

Quick spicy Spanish prawns


Serves 2, as an appetiser

60ml (¼ cup) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (or pimentón)
250g (½ pound) prawns, peeled and deveined, tails on
sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry sherry, such as Amontillado
parsley leaves, to serve

Combine the olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and paprika in frying pan or skillet. Place over low heat and, taking your time, gently warm through until it becomes fragrant.

Dry the prawns by patting with paper towel, then lightly season with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat up under the oil to medium high. Once it is hot and shimmering, add the prawns and cook, tossing, until just opaque.

Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and sherry. Scatter with parsley leaves and serve immediately.