Recently I've been eating low-carb. This is in an effort to knock off some weight, which I could frankly well afford to do. Several years ago I successfully lost 12-13 kg on a low-carb diet with lots of taekwon do training and kept it off for a few years. Then I moved to Dublin and started work as a consultant. Irregular hours, lots of travel, bad canteens and an eye injury meant that I stopped exercising and the weight crept back on. So, I'm back on the low-carb wagon and I'm running again. I'm only at at the start, but I already feel much more energetic. I do low-carb 6.5 days of the week, with one carby meal a week. I think this is psychologically as well as nutritionally important.
As any low-carb follower will tell you, eating out can be a challenge. I have ended up in canteens with the weirdest combinations of food - sometimes boiled broccoli from the hot counter with rocket and ham slices from the salad counter. My current work assignment has ZERO low-carb suitable options at breakfast time. So where's good to go when low-carbing?
Well, one clear option is tapas. I've been to Port House Ibericos in Dundrum twice recently, and both times I had the Gambas Pil Pil or basically prawns served in a garlic & chili oil. Plump juicy prawns that you can dip into the garlicky oil, what's not to love? Today, while shopping, I picked up some raw, peeled prawns and I decided to make Gambas Pil Pil at home. It's really easy, but the secret is to take your time and not overheat the oil. The results are amazing. I've listed quanities below, but don't get hung up on the measurements. I used 140g of prawns because that was the pack size I purchased.
I use a lot of garlic in my version, because that's the way I like it. Feel free to adjust to your own tastes. One word - the traditional recipe uses parsley, which I don't personally like, so I've omitted it. However, feel free to add some finely chopped parsley if that floats your boat. Pimenton, or smoked paprika, adds a real Spanish flavour of smokiness and warmth to the dish. It's readily obtainable in any good food shop and makes a valuable addition to any spice shelf.
|Gambas Pil Pil and assorted snacks|
140g raw prawns, peeled
6-7 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1/2 red chili, finely chopped
1 knob butter
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
Lots of olive oil
Sea salt (flakes are best)
The first thing required is to remove the prawns from their packaging and place them in a bowl along with some salt. This is not to add flavour, but instead to draw out some moisture from the prawns. Otherwise, when later placed in the oil, the water will leach out causing the prawns to boil rather than fry. Leave them to sit while preparing the oil.
Put a small skillet or heavy pan on a low-heat. Pour in lots of olive oil. The idea is that the prawns will sit in the oil and cook that way, rather than shallow-frying. As the oil warms up, add the knob of butter. I do this because it helps me see how hot the oil is getting. Reserve about one clove of garlic and a little chili. Once the butter has melted, add all the remaining garlic, chili and pimenton to the oil. They should be sizzling gently. The idea is to cook the garlic and chili very gently in the oil, so that it absorbs all the flavour. If the garlic shows any sign of browning, remove the oil from the heat until it is cooler. Allow the oil to infuse for approx 10 mins. Stir frequently and taste occasionally to see how the flavour is developing.
Place the prawns on kitchen paper and pat dry. Once ready, turn the heat up under the oil, stir in the reserved garlic and chili, then drop in the prawns one by one. Depending on the size, they should take no more than 2.5 - 3 minutes to cook. Serve either in the skillet or remove to a dish along with plenty of the tasty oil. Add a light sprinkle of sea salt and some crusty slices of bread for the people who are not low-carbing. Enjoy!
You may find that you won't eat or use all the oil. But this oil can be reused to cook more prawns, or reserved for use in a salad dressing.