Portuguese prawn cakes
- September 2015
- Serves 12 as a snack
- Hands-on time 2 hours, plus cooling and infusing
Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes shares his recipe for these fried pastry parcels filled with spiced chopped prawns.
- 15.2g (5.5g saturated)
- 19.8g (3.8g sugars)
- 600g large sustainable whole prawns (see Nuno’s tips for success)
- 750ml whole milk, plus a little extra if necessary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 30g unsalted butter
- ½ small onion, very finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 ripe tomato, peeled and deseeded, flesh finely chopped
- ½ tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- ½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- ½ tsp sea salt, or more to taste
- ½ white pepper
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- Squeeze lemon juice, plus wedges to serve
- 2 large free-range eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
- 100g dried breadcrumbs, lightly crushed in a sealed freezer bag with a rolling pin
- Sunflower oil for deep-frying
For the pastry…
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 280g plain flour, plus extra
- Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Put the prawns, milk and bay leaves in a large saucepan (that has a lid) over a medium heat until the milk is gently steaming, then poach the prawns for 4 minutes until almost cooked. Take the pan off the heat and remove the prawns to a tray or large plate (reserve the milk in the pan). Leave until cool enough to handle, then peel the prawns (see Nuno’s tips for success) and put the shells and heads in a roasting tin. Devein the prawns if necessary (see Nuno’s tips for success), then chop and set aside.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the shells and heads in the roasting tin, then roast for 10-15 minutes until deep pink and fragrant. Return them to the pan of milk and put back on a gentle heat until steaming. Remove from the heat, cover with the lid and leave to infuse for around 30 minutes. 3. Strain the infused milk through a fine sieve into a measuring jug – press the heads and shells with the back of a wooden spoon to extract maximum flavour, then discard. You need 750ml liquid – top up with extra milk if necessary. Reserve 250ml of the liquid for the filling, then return the rest to the saucepan.
- To make the pastry, add the 2 tbsp butter to the milk in the saucepan. Add the salt, peppers and paprika, then put the pan over a low-medium heat until it just starts to steam (don’t let it boil). Meanwhile, sift the flour onto a large sheet of baking paper. Quickly tip the flour into the pan, using the baking paper as a funnel, then whisk vigorously with a balloon whisk. When the dough comes together, swap the whisk for a wooden spoon. Keep beating until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
- Using a wooden spoon or dough scraper, work the warm dough briefly until it’s smooth and springs back when you press it gently (if the dough is cool enough, you can use your hands to knead it). Halve the dough, then cover each piece with an upturned mixing bowl. Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile make the filling. Melt the 30g butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low- medium, then add the reserved 250ml infused milk and heat until steaming. Stir in the coriander, parsley, cayenne, paprika, salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp water to make a smooth paste. Stir the paste into the milk, then gently simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season, then add the reserved chopped prawns and take the pan off the heat. Taste and season if necessary – it may need a squeeze of lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, then cover with a piece of cling film directly touching the surface and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Roll out one half of the dough at a time on a floured surface to around 3mm thick. Using an 8cm fluted round pastry cutter, cut out circles from the dough. You should get around 36 circles in total. Cover with a clean cloth or cling film to prevent them drying out.
- Place around 1 heaped tsp of the filling in the centre of each pastry circle. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl, then use to lightly brush the edge of each circle. Fold the circles in half to enclose the filling, as if making a small pasty. Squeeze the edges together to seal, pushing out any air pockets. For an ultra-neat finish, use the pastry cutter to stamp out a clean fluted edge. Put on large baking sheets lined with baking paper.
- Crack the whole eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Dip each pastry parcel in the egg, then the breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess as you go, then return to the lined baking sheet.
- Put the oil in a wide, heavy-based pan and heat until it reaches 175°C when tested with a digital or sugar thermometer. If you don’t have one, throw in a little pastry off-cut – if the oil is hot enough, the pastry should sizzle immediately. Fry the rissóis, a few at a time without crowding the pan, for 6-7 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain. Serve immediately, sprinkled with sea salt and extra chopped fresh parsley, with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
Nino’s tips; If you want to make the rissóis into a main meal, serve them as we do in Portugal, with cooked rice flavoured with fresh tomato and coriander. It’s fantastic.
For the best results use very fresh, top quality prawns. In Portugal, freshwater prawns are used.
If the prawns you buy are good quality there’s no need to devein them. But if you do want to, slice down the back of the prawns, carefully pull out the dark vein, then rinse the prawns.
When peeling the poached prawns, squeeze any juices from the heads into the meat to give it a more intense, bisque-like favour.
Prepare the filling and dough up to 24 hours in advance and keep covered in the fridge. The dough also freezes well for up to 1 month in a sealed container.
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