I was cooking for friends recently, and this was the starter. It’s a hard dish to get wrong really, as long as you can get the parts. It’s also really quick to cook, which gives you more time to sparkle…
Large prawns. The larger the better. I got 30 enormous ones from Rialto and they served six people.
Lardo : very finely sliced strips of pig fat. Yes, I know. Stay with me on this. If you can’t get it, very thinly sliced bacon – the fattier the cut the better – will do. The important thing is to get your butcher or supermarket to slice it as thinly as possible with a bacon slicer. No matter how good your knives are, you won’t be able to do it yourself.
Rocket / Leaves : yeah, we probably have to have a salad on the side. Some leaves, a bit of dressing. But let’s be honest, it’s not the main event and we’re not really that excited about it are we? Put some leaves in a bowl with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. That’ll do.
- Choose your music. Shelling and wrapping of prawns is quite a satisfying job, but a little bit time consuming and fiddly. You don’t want to be playing an album where you suddenly want to skip tracks. I had Mozart’s Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail on which is (a) far more gorgeous than I ever remembered and (b) was long enough for me to prepare a main course and bake a cake as well.
- Shell the prawns, and remove the intestinal tract (just give them a pinch in the middle and pull the red veiny thing out. The bigger the prawn, the easier this is). To be honest, you don’t really need to do this, but it looks nicer and makes you feel properly cheffy.
- Wrap your prawns. Take a strip of lardo and wrap your prawn up in it. Easy. If your lardo is super-thin you will be able to feel it melting away in your hands. Try not to think about this.
- When all your prawns are wrapped, you will have a plate that looks something like this :-
I know this may not look lovely. Don’t worry. Put them in the fridge to chill a bit
5. Meet your guests. Make spritzes. Do your best to sparkle.
6. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat. Do not add any oil. Your prawns are wrapped in pig fat, you are not going to need anything else
7. Fry your prawns for a couple of minutes each side. And this is the really clever bit…the fat will almost completely disappear, but will keep the prawns moist and impart a little saltiness, a little bit of flavour of bacon, and whatever else the lardo was cured with (in this case, black pepper and rosemary). If you had to use bacon, don’t worry…you’ll end up with a slightly crispier and more bacony shell but this is by no means the worst thing in the world.
8. Arrange on plate. Serve with some rocket, if you really have to. It probably needs a glass of white on the side, but – given the salty/savoury quality – a red would do as well.