Posts Tagged ‘prawns’

Delectable Dublin Bay offering

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Dublin Bay prawns are highly regarded around the world, appearing on the menus of many of the world’s best restaurants. As a commis chef, I shelled boxes and boxes of prawns at a time, often until my hands bled.

When prawns are fresh, it is almost impossible to peel them, because of the membrane attached to the shell. One of the best ways to get a prawn out of its shell without breaking it is to first remove the prawn’s head, and then freeze the prawn for 30 minutes. The shell should come away easily. The centre vein and waste should also be removed.

Prawns freeze well once they are shelled and cleaned. The shells can be used to make a great sauce or consommé.

The following dish went on the menu when my wife Muriel and I opened our first restaurant – the Wine Epergne in Rathmines – 18 years ago. I was trying to develop a new version of prawn cocktail at the time. We still serve it at Thornton’s, and it’s a favourite of many of our customers.

We dry the coral of the scallop and powder it for use as a garnish on the plate, which adds to the overall impact of the dish. We serve the prawns in a shallow soup plate, with the bisque acting as a sauce. However, the bisque can also be served on its own as a soup.

The sabayon, which adds a nice contrast of textures, is an optional extra that lightens the intensity of the bisque flavour.

You can get Dublin Bay prawns inmost good fishmongers, such as Thomas Mulloy’s on Baggot Street, Dublin. Steer clear of the commercially-available frozen prawns.

Sautéed Dublin Bay prawns with prawn bisque and sabayon

Ingredients (serves four)
20 Dublin Bay prawns
Sea salt
Freshly-milled black pepper
Olive oil (for frying)
2 lemons
1 bunch of finely chopped chives
Dash of brandy
4 chervil leaves

Ingredients – bisque
20ml of brandy
200ml of dry white wine
1kg of prawn shells
1 litre of fish stock (or vegetable stock)
100g miripoix (1 carrot, 2 celery sticks, 1 Spanish onion, 1 leek, all roughly chopped)
1/2 bulb of garlic
1/2 litre of cream
2 bay leaves
20g of unsalted butter
1 small bunch of thyme
10g of whole white peppercorns
Sea salt
Freshly-ground white mill pepper

Ingredients – sabayon
3 whole free range eggs
20ml of dry martini
30ml of spring water
Sea salt
Milled white pepper


1. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and add the prawn shells. Cook shells for ten minutes on a medium heat, stirring them all the time.
2. Add the miripoix, garlic, pep percorns and herbs and continue to mix well. Add a dash of brandy and flambé. Add another two dashes of brandy, allowing them also to flambé. Add the white wine and bring mixture to the boil.
3. Simmer and reduce the liquid by three quarters. Add the fish stock or vegetable stock and bring to the boil again. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for four hours, skimming the surface of any impurities from time to time while it’s cooking.
4. Add the scallop coral powder (optional) and remove from the heat. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer and return to the pot.
5. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer and reduce by three quarters. Taste and season. Add unsalted butter. Remove and blitz sauce in hand blender. It is now ready to serve.

1. Break the eggs into a stainless-steel bowl and mix with a stainless-steel whisk. Season and add the dry martini and still water.
Sit the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and whisk the mixture over heat until it forms a peak.

1. Season the prawns lightly with sea salt and fresh milled white pepper.
2. Drizzle olive oil over the prawns and place them in a hot Teflon frying pan over a high heat for about 300 seconds.
3.Turn prawns and flambé with a dash of brandy. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over on the prawns and sprinkle the chives on top. Make sure the prawns are pink all over.

Remove from heat and turn prawns onto a kitchen towel. To serve, spoon the bisque onto the base of a shallow soup plate.

Place a spoon of sabayon on top and add the prawns. Delicious!

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Great soup is made at home

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

I always feel a well-made soup is a good indication of ability in a restaurant’s kitchen. I was recently reminded of this when I had lunch at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in New York, where I enjoyed a wonderful horseradish velouté.

Traditionally, soups are classified in two broad groups – clear and thick. The established French classification of clear soups are bouillon and consommé, and thick soups are classified depending on the thickening agent used.

Purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch, bisques are made from puréed shellfish thickened with cream, cream soups are thickened with béchamel sauce and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter and cream. The key to making a good soup is the quality of the stock.

We associate soup with warmth and comfort, and no commercially made soup can compare with the homemade version. Soups are also a great way of getting children to eat vegetables.

Chicken broth served with toasted parmesan bread

1 free range or organic chicken
3l of chicken stock
Mirepoix (1 carrot, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 celery stalks, 1 white onion, 1/2 leek – all washed and cut into 2cm pieces), 2 parsley stems, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, 5 crushed white peppercorns, all washed and placed into a muslin cloth and tied. This is used for flavouring. Sea salt and freshly milled pepper to taste

1 carrot
1/2 leek
1/4 turnip
1 celery stick
3 dozen garden peas
Chicken meat cut into small pieces

1 Place the chicken into a pot and add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer. Skim the surface to remove any impurities, using a ladle or spoon. Continue to simmer very gently over a low heat for about two hours.

2 Add the mirepoix and the wrapped herbs, and cook slowly for a further hour. Skim the surface again to remove impurities.

3 Remove the chicken and strain, keep aside the stock.

4 For the garnish, wash and peel the vegetables and cut into small pieces about 2cm square. Add them to the stock and cook slowly over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove the peas from the pods and add them to the stock, then cook for a further five minutes. Remove the breasts of chicken from the bones. Remove the skin and cut the chicken into long thin pieces. Add them to the broth, correct the seasoning and serve.

5 Sprinkle fresh grated parmesan cheese onto slices of sourdough bread and toast until crisp. Serve with broth.

Fish and lemongrass consommé garnished with fresh prawns

1kg of whiting and cod fillets
8 egg whites
1 leek, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
3 shallots, finely diced
10 whole white peppercorns
5 flat leafed parsley stems
1 small bunch of thyme (washed and roughly chopped)
1 bay leaf
300ml of dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 capful of white wine vinegar
4l fish stock
Sea salt and freshly-milled white pepper to taste
10 lemon grass sticks
10g of fresh ginger

30 small fresh prawns Bunch of fresh dill, chopped

1 Slice the whiting and cod fillets very finely and purée in a blender. Remove and place into a large pot, and add the diced leek, celery, shallot, whole peppercorns, parsley, roughly chopped thyme and bay leaf. Mix well together.

2 In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites with a whisk for one minute. Add the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, white wine and fish stock. Mix with a whisk for a further minute. Pour the liquid onto the fish purée and vegetables, mixing well. Flatten the lemongrass with the side of a chopping knife (to release the flavour), cut into small pieces and add to the mixture. Peel and roughly cut the ginger and add to the mixture.

3 Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, stirring frequently until it starts to emulsify on top (form a raft). This will be recognised when the mixture starts to set. Simmer very slowly for about 45 minutes, or until the required taste is achieved. Baste the raft frequently. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth into a separate pot and return to the heat. Bring to the boil and boil for one minute.

4 Cool slightly, taste and correct the seasoning.

Garnish method
1 Peel the prawns and remove the vein, cut them very thinly and place into the bowls.

2 Chop the dill and sprinkle a little into each bowl.

3 Pour in the consommé and serve. (The consommé will cook the prawns).

Cream of tomato soup garnished with tomato concaisse and flat leafed parsley

2 kg of vine-ripe tomatoes
50g diced bacon
10ml olive oil
1 carrot
5 shallots
2 cloves of wet garlic
1 red pepper
2l chicken stock
1 small bunch of flat leafed parsley
1 litre of cream
Sea salt/freshly-milled pepper

5 vine tomatoes
100ml of cream
Fried flat leafed parsley
50ml of olive oil

1 Cut the bacon into small pieces. Wash and peel the vegetables and garlic, and dice into small pieces. Heat a pot, and into it add the olive oil, bacon, chopped vegetables and garlic. Cook slowly without colouring for 15 minutes.

2 Skin the tomatoes by piercing the top with a sharp knife and placing in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and place into iced water. The skin can then be peeled off easily.

3 Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the vegetables. Cut the red pepper in half, remove the seeds and roughly chop. Add it to the pot.

4 Season with sea salt and freshly-milled pepper.

5 Chop the parsley and add it, then cook for a further ten minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 50 minutes.

6 Place the cream in a separate pot, bring to the boil and simmer, reducing the liquid by half. Remove from the heat and add to the soup.

7 Remove the soup from the heat and purée in a blender. Remove and pass through a fine sieve.

8 Taste and correct the seasoning.

Garnish method
1 Bring the cream to the boil and reduce by half, season lightly and cool.

2 Skin (as before) and de-seed the tomatoes, then cut into 1cm pieces.

3 Heat a pan and add the oil. Wet the flat leafed parsley in cold water, shake off the excess water and add the parsley to the pan. It should crisp immediately when it is added.

4 Remove the parsley and place it on kitchen paper, then season with sea salt.

5 Pour the tomato soup into the bowl. Place a spoonful of cream on top, then garnish with the con
caisse of tomato and flat leafed parsley.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.