I have just got back from a very spontaneous trip to Portugal. So spontaneous that I didn’t know I was going until about three days before I went. One of the nice things about this is that it avoids all the pre-holiday anticipation, which inevitably peaks just before you go, leaving the actual arrival slightly anti-climactic. In this case, I was boarding the plane from a satisfyingly rainy Bristol before I knew it.
Usually, I at least try and learn a few words of the language before I go abroad – as it irritates me when some British people insist on speaking English everywhere (‘ham, egg and chips please, mate’) without the slightest consideration of the local culture. Not having time to learn much Portuguese beforehand, I had to hastily cram in the essentials on the plane ride over. ‘Por favor’, ‘Obrigada’, and ‘Desculpe’ (please, thank you and sorry) seemed to suffice in most situations.
We stayed on a beach hut, actually on the beach (they weren’t lying), which was a mere five minutes drive from Faro Airport. The beach is essentially an island in itself, separated from the mainland by a bridge, and contains a smattering of restaurants, one shop, and lots of beach huts dotted along it. It seemed to be a top spot for kite-surfing (you can just about see them in the bottom picture) so we had a very impressive display at just about Prosecco time every evening. We found a particularly good beach café bar, that was so good we returned every day. One of the main reasons for our frequent visits was the ‘gambas’: shell- on prawns swimming in fiery olive oil. They are always accompanied by mountains of bread, which increased in quality with each of our visits, to dunk in the bright red oil.
So the minute I got back, suffering twinges of withdrawal from not having had gambas in over twelve hours, I set about recreating them. I had bought back some chilli oil (piri-piri, just like in Nando’s, although slightly more authentic) and some peppery olive oil. I got some raw prawns from the local fishmonger and I was good to go. Using raw prawns definitely helps, although I find them slightly intimidating, as they produce a lovely juice that mingles with the olive oil. Not quite the same as when eaten on a Portuguese beach, but they’re still pretty delicious.
Serves 2 as a starter/1 as a main
10 Tiger prawns, raw and with the shells still on
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tsp chilli oil (adjust the amount depending on your heat threshold)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 zested, then cut into wedges
Crusty bread, to serve
Warm one tbsp of the olive oil over a medium heat. Fry the prawns for about 2 minutes on each side, until they have turned pink. Add the garlic, chilli oil and 2 tbsp water and cook for about another 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest, another 2 tbsp water, and the remaining tbsp olive oil, then squeeze over a couple of the lemon wedges. Cook for another 5 minutes. Just before serving, add another drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with extra lemon wedges and crusty bread to mop up the juice.