“Many folk like to know beforehand what is to be set on the table; but those who have laboured to prepare the feast like to keep their secret; for wonder makes the words of praise louder”
(From “Return of the King”, by J.R.R.Tolkein, spoken by Gandalf)
Tempura Prawns with Gluten-free Batter – based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson
If there is one TV cook who I follow more than any other it is Nigella, and a personalised signed copy of “Nigelissima”, from which this recipe is adapted, is a prized possession. I am sure that she would approve of the quote above, and it rings very true with me because it is not just the cooking that I enjoy, it is the pleasure that the food I have prepared brings to others, and (perhaps rather vainly) secretly enjoying their praises, especially if the dish is a surprise. This particular recipe is a favourite of my wife and daughter, and they always make comments along the lines of “you couldn’t get better in a posh restaurant”.
The key to this recipe is making a light and airy batter – which is pretty simple to do. I make mine with a gluten-free rice/potato mix flour, having found that rice flour makes an overly heavy batter. I have also scaled up from the original recipe.
What you need for the batter:
50g of gluten-free flour
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons of olive oil
120mls of warm water (straight from the tap is fine)
What else you need:
Approx. 400g of king prawns (don’t use the small “everyday” prawns, they just don’t hold enough batter to work)
1.5 litres of vegetable oil (I find sunflower oil works well, but I am sure other varieties do too)
Weigh out the flour and then mix in the olive oil. Now slowly add the warm water and begin to whisk (a hand whisk is better for this stage). You will find that the mix gets heavy quite quickly and ends up as a lump in the middle of your whisk, don’t worry, just shake it free, add a little more warm water and it will smoothen out. Keep whisking and adding the water until you have a mixture roughly the consistency of double cream. If you add too much water, just correct by sprinkling in a little extra flour.
Once you’ve achieved the right consistency, stand the mixture to one side. In a separate bowl whisk 2 egg whites until they form firm peaks that hold. You can easily do this with a hand whisk in a few minutes with just 2 egg whites.
Now fold (don’t mix or whisk) the egg white into the flour mixture, making sure to fold in plenty of air. Once done, place in a fridge for at least 30 minutes.
After about 20 minutes I start to get the vegetable oil ready. Pour about 1.5 litres of oil into a large saucepan so that it is about two-thirds full. Place on a high heat, observing all the safety rules for hot oil i.e. no small children in the kitchen, pan handle pointed inwards, cover your arms and wear covered not open shoes – in the unlikely event of an incident hot oil on bare toes is extremely painful! Okay, safety lecture over!
After about 10 minutes the oil should be ready, check this by dropping a teaspoon of the batter mix into the pan – if it sizzles and browns in about 30 seconds, it’s ready. The oil should be reduced to a steady medium heat now to prevent spitting.
Add a few prawns to your batter mix. Make sure they are covered in the mixture, and then place them gently, one by one, in the oil. I use a long-handled teaspoon for this, which works perfectly. The prawns should take only 1-2 minutes to cook, once the batter is a golden brown remove them with a slotted spoon – I place them in a foil covered, kitchen roll lined, dish to keep them warm. Repeat this process until all the prawns are cooked. If you want to be really “cheffy”, take a few slices of lemon, and some sprigs of parsley and coat them in batter and fry as well.
This is a perfect starter, but we like to make it a main meal – the quantities above make a good sized helping for two people. We serve with a little salad and a drizzle of sweet chilli dipping sauce.
Why I like this recipe
It’s simple to cook, but the results are impressive.
The diners in our house demolish them in a matter of minutes, and give me lot’s of compliments every time I make them!
It’s a versatile dish as it’s a great starter, really good finger food for a hot buffet, and very filling for a main meal when scaled up.
The batter can be used for coating and deep frying anything – I’ll be experimenting with a few more things in the weeks to come.
As you cook you end up with broken off pieces of batter that you have to take out of the oil, I place these to one side and invoke chef’s privilege and have a nibble while I am cooking!