Servings: Allow 1/2 pound of undressed prawns per person, or 1/3 pound of dressed prawns per person. Hearty eaters will demand more.
Prawns are almost identical to large shrimp. They are a little more slender than shrimp, and their average size is between 6 and 7 inches long. If necessary, substitute jumbo shrimp in the recipe below. The larger the prawns or shrimp, the better for this dish. I adapted the recipe from The Africa News Cookbook, which recommended that you use very large shrimp that figure less then 10 per pound.
Mozambique has a long coastline on the east side of Africa, where fresh seafood abounds. The country is also noted for its fine open-grill cooking, in which the meat or other fare is cooked directly over coals. Further, Mozambique is also noted for a hot sauce, called Piripiri, which is used as a marinade, as a basting sauce for grilling meat, and as a sauce for use at the table. Putting all this together, I offer the following recipe:
3 or 4 pounds prawns or jumbo shrimp
1 cup peanut oil
8 hot peppers, or
4 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
Juice of 4 lemons
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Clean the prawns and devein them, but leave the tails in place. These are handy for eating the prawns, and, some say, they add flavor while the meat is being cooked. Mix the peppers (or red pepper flakes), lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and salt. Pour half of the lemon mixture over the prawns and marinate for several hours in a nonmetallic bowl. (Save the other half of the lemon sauce.)
Build the fire in a grill and let the coals burn down. Mix and heat a basting sauce with the rest of the lemon mixture and the oil. Put the peeled prawns on a hot grill about 3 inches from the fire. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, basting lightly with the heated sauce. (The exact cooking time will depend on how hot your fire is, on how close the prawns are to it, and on how large the prawns are. If in doubt, cut into one of the prawns and check for doneness before serving. The prawn shouldn't be cooked too long.)
Leftover basting mixture can be put into a small bowl and used as a dunking sauce.
Note: The peoples of the east coast of Africa have another very hot sauce similar to the one used in the recipe above. It's called Pili Pili, and is made by grinding together (a food processor will work nicely) one pound of hot chilies, 1 medium onion, a clove of garlic, and the juice of 1 lemon. Don't get this stuff in your eyes. In fact, it's best to keep it off your hands. A friend of mine in Alabama grows his own peppers and makes a similar sauce from hot peppers. A purist, he doesn't put any lemon or such stuff in it. Red in color, the juice is so strong, some local folks claim, that a drop or two will unclog your kitchen plumbing!
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On The Grill
A complete guide to hot-smoking
and barbecuing meat, fish, and game.
By A.D. Livingston
The Lyons Press
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
On The Grill
This page created September 1999