Gambas pil-pil: There is nothing more typical in Andalucían cookery than spicy prawns served sizzling hot with crusty bread to mop up the juices – together with a glass of chilled white wine or manzanilla, of course!
This quick and easy dish uses three classic ingredients of Spanish cookery – shellfish, garlic and olive oil. Why …. you’ll even hear sound effects as the sizzling prawns pop and splutter in the hot oil as you bring this time-honoured Andalucían dish to your table.
Maybe you’ve returned home from Andalucía and want to recreate memories of a perfect lunch under the shade of the trees in a quiet plaza. Or you dream of sitting on a sunny terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, watching the palm trees sway in the gentle breeze as the waiter serves your tapas.
Now, what could be more evocative than that?
Here´s what you need for each person:
- 10-12 large peeled prawns (uncooked) per person for a starter, or 15-17 for a light main course (gambas)
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (aceite de oliva)
- A few stems of flat-leaf parsley (perejil)
- 2 plump cloves of garlic (ajo)
- 2 teaspoons of paprika spice, adjust according to taste. Alternatively, if you can find it, use specially prepared pil-pil spice, sold at most Spanish street-markets on the spice stall. Most recipes omit this ingredient, but without it the dish lacks the classic colour and depth of flavour.
- 1 small dried hot chilli pepper
- Fresh, crusty bread or rolls
- Heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
- Peel, clean and de-vein the prawns. Wash them in cold water and dry thoroughly.
- Chop the garlic into small slices.
- Finely chop the parsley reserving some for the garnish.
- Chop the dried chilli pepper, discarding the seeds if you prefer a less fiery flavour.
- When the oven comes to temperature put the olive oil into a small ovenproof dish (use one per person), and put in the oven for 3-4 minutes or until the oil starts to bubble.
- Remove the dish or dishes from the oven, stir in the paprika powder, peppers, garlic and most of the parsley.
- Add the prawns, ensuring they are well coated with the mix.
- Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the oil is bubbling vigorously and the prawns have just turned pink. Don´t overcook them as they will become rubbery.
- Garnish with remaining parsley, and serve immediately, still in the ovenproof dishes, while the oil is still bubbling.
- Serve with a well-chilled white wine and fresh crusty white bread to mop up the spicy oil.