King prawns, especially the eastern king, are in season throughout summer while tiger prawns are caught between August and November. Of the three, banana prawns have the softest texture and, if in good condition, they can be the sweetest of all. Of course, if any prawn is overcooked it will dry out and develop a rubbery texture.
1.2kg shelled medium king prawns, de-veined
4 eschalots, peeled and sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
quarter tsp chilli powder
1 tsp fennel seed
3 banana chillies, de-seeded and halved
1 cup dry white wine
1 litre prawn stock
2 litres water
2 cups tomato "passato" (puree)
250g pearled barley
300g shelled peas
1 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Heads and shells from 1.2kg prawns
1 small leek, cut into 1/2 cm thick rounds
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 2cm rounds
2 sticks celery
1 cup tomato puree
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Place barley in a sieve and wash quickly under running water to remove dust or dirt. Heat olive oil in a large pot and gently fry eschalots, garlic, paprika, chilli powder and fennel for a minute. Add wine, turn up heat and boil until there is almost no liquid left. Add prawn stock and passato, banana chillies and a litre of water. Bring to boil and add barley. Simmer for 15 minutes then add peas. Simmer for 15 minutes more then add prawns. Cook for 5 minutes then add parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Serve hot.
Note: Leftover stew can be excellent a day or two after being made though the barley will have absorbed all the liquid. Reheat by adding a cup of water and a quarter cup of tomato puree and gently bringing to the boil. More prawns or other seafood can be added to make a substantial "leftovers" meal.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the prawn shells and heads for 20-30 seconds. Drain and put the prawn shells into a stockpot with the leek, carrot, celery, tomato and garlic. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour, skimming any scum from the surface. Strain and it is ready to use.
Makes about 2 litres