One of my favourite soups is lobster bisque. It can be expensive to make but prawns have a great flavour too and are not shabby at all.
In fact, you don’t even need prawns to make bisque, you only really need the shells and a handful of prawns for garnish. So save up the shells when using prawns, bag and store them in the freezer and when you have collected a good amount, it’s bisque time.
This recipe serves four.
1 kg prawns, heads and shells on
2 large onions
2 large carrots
3 cloves garlic
1.5 litres water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
411g can peeled and diced tomatoes
250ml dry white wine
50ml brandy, or to taste
250ml single cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 Tbs olive oil
chopped chives or flat leaf parsley for garnish
1 Rinse the prawns under running water. Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip the long antennae off the prawn heads. Peel them. Remove the heads and collect them in one colander, peel off the rest of the shells and collect them in another colander. Keep the tail shells on the prawns.
2 Devein the prawns, give them another quick rinse, pat dry with paper towels and place in a glass or plastic container. Cover and refrigerate.
3 While the prawn heads and shells are draining, prepare the vegetables. Peel the carrots and dice into 1cm cubes. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and finely mince the garlic.
4 Make the stock: Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Melt 50g of the butter in it, then add half the onion and carrot. Sweat them in the butter until the onions are soft but not browned. Add in the prawn heads, turn heat up to medium high and stir-fry until they turn orange. Continue to stir them in the pot for three to four minutes.
5 Add the water, stir to mix well and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer 45 minutes, partially covered.
6 Place a fine-mesh sieve over a clean pot and strain the prawn stock. Ladle the stock, vegetables and prawn heads into the sieve, pressing hard on the solids to extract every last bit of stock. You will need to do this in several batches, discarding the solids as you go along.
7 Wash the large pot you made the stock in, dry well and set over medium-high heat. Melt the remaining 50g butter in it, then add the garlic and the remaining onions and carrots. Stir-fry until the onions are soft but not brown. Add in the thyme and bay leaf, stir-fry one minute.
8 Add the prawn shells, stir-fry five minutes. Add the tomatoes, juices included, and wine. Bring to a boil.
9 Pour in the prawn stock, turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low and let simmer 45 minutes, partially covered.
10 Set a fine-mesh sieve over a clean pot. Whiz the soup, prawn shells included, in a blender. You will need to do this in batches.
11 Pour each batch into the sieve and press down with the back of a ladle to extract all of the soup. Discard the solids as you go along.
12 The soup can be made ahead up to this point. Store the strained soup in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
13 Remove prawns from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
14 Bring the soup to a boil, if it has been in the refrigerator, then lower the heat. Add the cognac and cream. Stir to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste, and keep the soup on the stove over medium-low heat.
15 Season the prawns with salt and pepper to taste and pan-fry in batches with the olive oil in a frying pan.
16 Divide the prawns among four bowls. Divide the soup among the bowls, garnish with chives or parsley and serve.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on April 14, 2013. Read the full story at StraitsTimes.com.