April 24th, 2014

Smoked Prawn Bisque with Tempura Asparagus and Prawns

We buy most of our smoked fish products from the wonderful Pinney’s of Orford. We love the quality of their products and the whole ethos of how they run their business, which makes them even more special.

We buy kilos of smoked prawns each week that are served as part of a large sharing platter. We peel the prawns and then turn the smoked prawns into a delicious prawn cocktail, so we are usually left with a heap of shells. The shells are then used to make this delicious bisque that could either be served as a soup for a starter or light lunch, or reduced and served as a sauce to go with a delicious piece of pan-fried hake.

Either way it’s proven to hit the spot with the British Larder customers and is hugely popular. The smoky taste is not overpowering and it’s quite subtle, but the smokiness gives the bisque a rounded and more in-depth flavour, with a rather mysterious deliciousness to it.

As asparagus is plentiful and in season, I simply garnish this bisque with tempura asparagus and whole prawns, which are easy to prepare and give the dish an interesting texture.

For the Smoked Prawn Bisque

  • 1kg smoked prawn shells
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
  • 2 banana shallots, sliced
  • ½ fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 4 white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a large handful of fresh mixed herbs (such as parsley and thyme)
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 100g tomato purée
  • 6 large ripe plum tomatoes, roughly diced
  • 200ml brandy
  • 300ml dry vermouth
  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 500ml brown chicken stock
  • 200ml double cream
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the tempura asparagus and prawns

  • 25g cornflour
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125ml sparkling water
  • 2 egg whites
  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 6 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 6 whole smoked prawns, peeled

To make the bisque, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Put the smoked prawn shells into a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 30–40 minutes or until they are deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and set asid

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large stockpot and sauté the shallots, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, peppercorns and coriander seeds, with a little salt and pepper added (be conservative with the salt as the bisque can easily become salty), over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Add the herbs, cayenne pepper, tomato purée, diced tomatoes and roasted smoked prawn shells.

Add the brandy to the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then cook over a high heat for 5–6 minutes or until the brandy is reduced and becomes syrupy. Add the vermouth to the pan and cook over a high heat for 7–8 minutes or until the vermouth is reduced and becomes syrupy. Add the fish and chicken stocks, then bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, removing any scum from the surface with a ladle.

Remove from the heat, then carefully pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then return the liquid to a clean saucepan (discard the solids in the sieve). Bring the bisque to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer, uncovered, for 15–18 minutes or until reduced, thickened, glossy and dark golden copper brown in colour. Stir in the cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Keep hot, while you prepare and cook the tempura.

For the tempura batter, mix the cornflour, flour, egg yolk, sparkling water and salt and pepper together in a bowl to make a smooth paste. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy but stop just before they form soft peaks. Fold the whisked whites into the flour paste until combined, then set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat some sunflower oil in an electric deep-fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 160°C (or until a small piece of bread browns within 20 seconds in the hot oil). Once the oil is hot enough, dip the asparagus spears into the tempura batter (coating them all over) and then deep-fry them in the hot oil for about 3–4 minutes or until cooked, crisp and golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and season lightly with salt. Keep warm while you batter and deep-fry the prawns in the same way (if your pan is big enough, then you can deep-fry the asparagus and prawns all at the same time).

Use a hand-held blender to aerate the bisque (for 30–40 seconds or so) just before serving, if you like, then serve it in soup bowls with the tempura asparagus and prawns alongside.

Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch


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