Like a bit of spice? Then this is the dish for you to try this evening
The aromatic oil, spiced with Sichuan pepper, is the real reason why I’ve chosen this recipe. It’s easy, quick, fiery, spicy, full of flavour and you’ll feel the pain, but it’s also devilishly addictive. I find it fascinating to see how the aromatic profile of a dish can be changed completely with just a few drops of oil – don’t you agree?
Prawns in Garlic, Butter & Parsley with Sichuan Chilli Oil
Serves 2 or 4 as a starter
For the chilli oil (prepare this at least 24 hours ahead)
225ml neutral flavoured oil
2.5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced
white part of 4 spring onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
8 tbsp red chilli flakes
1 tbsp sesame seeds
3-4 Sichuan peppercorns
For the prawns
1 garlic clove
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
225g cooked peeled prawns
1 tbsp neutral flavoured oil
For the chilli oil, heat the oil in a saucepan with the ginger, spring onions, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and whole cloves over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the onions start to brown.
Strain the oil, return it to the pan and place over a medium heat. Meanwhile, put 5 tbsp of chilli flakes in a heatproof ceramic or glass bowl. When the oil is just starting to smoke, pour half of it carefully over the chilli flakes in the bowl. Leave until the bubbles in the oil die down before continuing.
Add the sesame seeds to the bowl with another tbsp of chilli flakes and the peppercorns. Pour in the remaining oil and leave to infuse for 24 hours, by which time the oil will have turned orangey red.
The oil can be kept in a covered container for a few weeks at room temperature or even longer in the refrigerator.
When ready to cook the prawns, crush the garlic with the butter and salt. Add the parsley and pound everything together. You might not know it, but you’ve just made a true classic of French cuisine called beurre maître d’hôtel. And that’s all I’m saying.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the prawns for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and parsley butter, stirring so the prawns are coated, and serve hot. It’s already a very good dish, but with a drizzle of the red oil, it’s to die for.
Extracted from Just a French Guy Cooking by Alexis Gabriel Aïnouz (Quadrille, approx €17). Photography © Dan Jones.