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Ixta Belfrage’s Prawn Lasagne with Habanero Oil

by Ixta Belfrage from MEZCLA: Recipes to Excite

As seen on Sunday Brunch on Channel 4, Ixta Belfrage's Brazilian prawn lasagne features a creamy cheese sauce and is served with a drizzle of homemade dende chilli oil.

From the book

Ixta Belfrage


This recipe is very close to my heart, and as with many of my favourite recipes, I’ve tweaked it more times than I could count on two hands. In its first incarnation, I started with shell-on prawns, making a stock from the shells and an oil laced with habanero with the fried prawn heads. Rather than a béchamel, I made a homemade version of Catupiry, a Brazilian cheese spread which is hard to describe and really needs to be tasted to be understood, because it tastes  nothing like regular cheese spread.

This lasagne is the purest representation of me; a homage to the countries that have shaped me as a person and a cook. In its original form it was one part Italian (the pasta), one part Mexican (the habanero) and one part Brazilian (the Catupiry). This particular version is simplified, no Catupiry and no prawn head oil, but I hope you’ll agree that it’s still magical.

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250g fresh lasagne sheets
130g double cream, plus 1 tablespoon to serve
100g Parmesan, finely grated
10g fresh chives, finely chopped
For the prawn ragù:
6 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes, such as Datterini, finely chopped
1 tsp fine salt
500g raw peeled king prawns, very finely chopped to mince consistency (about 1kg if you’re starting with shell-on prawns – use the shells to make a stock)
1 dried habanero chilli (or chilli flakes if you prefer less heat)
80g tomato purée/paste
2 tsp white miso paste
About 50 twists of freshly ground black pepper
100g white wine
500g fish, shellfish or chicken stock (unsalted liquid stock, not cubes)
For the Habanero oil:
120g olive oil
2 tsp tomato purée/paste
½ tsp chipotle flakes
1 dried habanero chilli, seeds discarded, finely chopped (use less habanero or a pinch of regular chilli flakes if you prefer)
½ tsp sweet paprika
¼ tsp fine salt


For the ragù, put 4 tablespoons of the oil into a large sauté pan on a medium heat with the onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and fine salt. Fry, stirring often, for 8–10 minutes or until the onions are soft and golden and the tomatoes have broken down.

Increase the heat to high, add the chopped prawns and fry for another 8 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the prawn mince has taken on some colour.

If you don’t have a food processor, very finely chop all the vegetables and prawns by hand.

Add the habanero (or chilli flakes), tomato purée/paste, miso and plenty of pepper. Continue to fry for 3 minutes, stirring every now and then. Turn the heat down if the mixture starts to catch or burn.

Pour over the wine and let it bubble away for 30 seconds. Add the stock (or water) and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for about 18–20 minutes. Remove the habanero, squeezing it into the sauce first if you like heat.

Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the habanero oil into a small saucepan and place on a medium heat. Mix well and heat until gently bubbling, about 1½ minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Once cool, transfer to a clean jar (you’ll only need a couple of tablespoons for this recipe).

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C.

To assemble the lasagne, cover the bottom of a small baking dish with lasagne sheets, about 20 x 20cm or a similar size, then spread over a fifth of the ragù. Follow with a fifth each of the cream, Parmesan and chives. Continue layering in the same way until you’ve used up all the ingredients. Drizzle over ½ tablespoon of the habanero oil, cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Increase the oven heat to 230°C fan/250°C, remove the foil and bake for another 12 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and the pasta is cooked through.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Finish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and a good drizzle of the habanero oil, and serve.

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From the book: MEZCLA: Recipes to Excite

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