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Gamberoni Arrosto su Macco di Ceci e Anice Nero (Roast King Prawns with Chickpea Mash)

This sophisticated southern Italian dish of roast king prawns with chickpea mash is from renowned restaurateur, Francesco Mazzei. Fennel, tomatoes and Marsala wine make this a perfect dinner party recipe.

From the book


The moorish influence on the history of southern Italy is still very evident in much of our cooking and if I were to try and describe this dish I would say, imagine a hummus with some king prawns as your dipper. It’s the fennel and tomatoes that root the dish in Italy and my touch is to add a splash of dry Marsala wine to sweeten the prawns and the sauce.

You will make more prawn stock than you need but it freezes well and can be kept for up to a month.

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20 raw king prawns, in their shells
½ shallot, roughly chopped
20g fennel, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp tomato purée
¼ tsp anise seeds or fennel seeds
1kg ice cubes
sunflower oil, for deep-frying
120g cherry tomatoes, halved
100g Savoy cabbage, leaves separated
1 red chilli, halved, deseeded and cut lengthways into fine strips
4 tsp Greco di Bianco or Marsala wine
5g dill
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Chickpea Mash:
175g chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
½ shallot, roughly chopped
20g peeled carrot, roughly chopped
20g trimmed celery, roughly chopped
½ tsp black anise seeds


For the chickpea mash, put the chickpeas into a casserole with the shallot, carrot and celery. Pour in just enough water to cover, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1 – 2 hours until they are tender but still have a slight bite. Add a few pinches of fine salt.

Peel and devein the prawns but leave the heads and tails on. In a saucepan, sweat the shallot and fennel in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the prawn shells and toast for 1 minute, then add the tomato purée, the anise or fennel seeds, then cover with the ice. (Using ice cubes for the stock is a good trick as they will take a lot longer to come to the boil than water does, which means the shells have more time to release their flavour.) Bring to the boil and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat, leave to cool then pass through a sieve. Reheat just before you continue with the chickpea mash.

Remove a couple of heaped tablespoons of chickpeas (no liquid) and set aside. Add the black anise seeds to the pan of chickpeas, then transfer the pan’s contents to a food processor and blend until you have a smooth but thick purée. Add 50ml of the prawn stock if it’s too thick, check the seasoning and adjust the salt.

Start to heat a deep saucepan or fat fryer with sunflower oil until the oil reaches 170ºC. Heat an overhead grill to high.

Place the cherry tomatoes, cut-side up, on a baking tray and grill until browned, then set aside.

Deep-fry the reserved chickpeas until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

In salted boiling water, blanch the cabbage leaves for 1 minute then place in iced water to cool/

Heat a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-high heat, cook the prawns in batches, searing them on each side until pink and just cooked through, adding more oil as necessary. Remove and set aside.

Drain the cabbage leaves well then add them to the pan and sear for 1 minute on each side, then add the chilli and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the wine, allow to evaporate over a high heat then add enough of the prawn stick to get a creamy sauce.

Transfer the prawns to a warm serving dish, top with the grilled tomatoes and sauce and garnish with the dill. Serve the chickpea mash and cabbage in a seperate serving dish, topped with the crunchy chickpeas.


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