Curing emotional stress with food is either the best idea in the world or a one-way ticket to not fitting in your pants. But you know what? Fuck it, that’s what wizened Chinese tailors are for.
Because, lets face it – what with everyone being angry at the fun half of Europe for refusing to allow the rest of the world to just get on with its financial recovery, boy bands re-uniting all over the place like reject circus clowns and the Pentagon being unable to figure out their response to the clear and present danger of rubbish 3D movies – what the hell is there left that’s good in the world, if not stuffing your face?
Comfort food is traditionally one of those topics that’s trotted out during the winter months with glowingly photoshopped picture of stews (giant chunks of sheep swimming with manly bits of carrot and whatnot), artfully torn hunks of peasant bread and pies that were initially invented to feed a burly miner for an entire day, but which are now generally wolfed down as a warm-up to a main-course of Bourbon-soaked ribs (mmmm… ribs) – but I reject this thoroughly weatherist idea of ‘comfort food’ as only being a meat-bombardment-that’s-meant-to-insulate-you-against-ridiculous-Northern-Hemisphere-winters-that-are-literally-trying-to-freeze-your-balls/wobbly-bits-off-while-you’re-not-looking, and instead suggest that comfort food is whatever the hell makes you feel better about yourself when life has slapped you in the face Days of our Lives-style and you’re feeling pretty kak about it all.
And obviously – when you go by that definition, everyone’s idea of what that might actually be is going to be totally different, and more often than not, delightfully irrational. For example, when I was a kid, it was this bizarre dehydrated soya mince stuff called Toppers (it doesn’t exist anymore, possibly because someone found out that it was actually made of the ancient remains of mummified Pharaohs). If ever I was miserable (and I was a 9 year-old, 3’2” vegetarian with allergies to all wheat and dairy – so that was fairly common) – a packet of this stuff would be hauled out and glooped over a baked potato – and it never *ever* failed to cheer me up. Go figure.
So, having been in the doldrums fairly recently and with no soya products near at hand – I turned to the other thing that possibly makes me happier than anything else in the world (and that includes Youtube clips of kittens) – seafood.
No one could ever accuse a prawn of being the cuddliest of animals – in fact they sort of look like mini alien-babies that are trying to eat your brain (damn you District 9), but some would argue that that’s what makes them all the more satisfying to eat by the bucketload.
So, repeat after me class – “When Forlorn, Eat a Prawn!”
For 2/3 people
1 tsp John West minced garlic
1 tsp John West minced chilli * just a quick word about this stuff – it is my newest discovery and seriously, seriously fucking amazing. Try your best to find it if you can, it’s totally totally worth it (I’m repeating words so you know I must mean it). But if you can’t or you’re too lazy, which is fine too, finely chop up 1 large clove of garlic and one fat fresh chilli, de-seeded instead – that’ll do the trick just as well…
2 large ripe tomatoes (cut into quarters)
1 onion (also cut into quarters)
a handful of fresh basil
a couple of stalks of fresh oreganum, leaves stripped (chuck the stalks after)
zest and juice of 1 lemon (don’t throw away the rind – you’re going to use it!)
1 tbspn brown sugar
1 tbspn tomato paste
Prawns for 2/3 (only you know how much you can eat) – cleaned, but with the shell on (get these from a fishmonger, they’ll be fresher, cheaper, bigger and all the more satisfying – and you can ask them to clean them and remove all the veiny bits)
What to do
This is so easy it’s not even funny, either in a large bowl or in a food processor, lob in all the marinade ingredients and either using a handheld blitzing stick (if you’re going the bowl route) or the pulse setting on your food processor, reduce it all to a thick paste. At this point taste it, no matter how unappetizing it may look – dip your finger in and give it a lick. You might find you want a bit more salt or pepper or that there isn’t enough lemon or whatever – so now’s the time to find out and make the adjustments! (and if you’re feeling like it’s missing just…something, add a shake or two of thai fish sauce – that should sort it out).
Get the prawns into a deep-ish baking tray that’ll comfortably hold them all and cover with the marinade and let them swim in it for about 20 minutes or so. Don’t overdo it though, you want them to be nicely coated – not drowning. Also, cut the remains of the lemon you used in the marinade into quarters and nestle them in there as well.
Get the oven up to about 200〫C, bung in the tray of prawns and leave them there until they’re pink and sizzling – no more than about 20 minutes worth of cooking.
And then, this is the bit where you get to do whatever you want really, because you can serve these with pasta or potato wedges or even rice or heated flatbreads if that’s your speed. This is totally your comfort-scenario, not mine.