Brazilians love the beach possibly more than any other nation in the world. Because we spend so much time at the beach the variety of food options you can have are huge either in carts or out of the beach front restaurants. Foods from beach carts range from corn on the cob, dulce de leche churros, sandwiches, ice-cream, sushi and all sorts of alcoholic drinks you can possible imagine. At some beaches there are even carts that sell wines. It is a peculiar part of our culture the habit of arriving early at the beach and spend the whole day snacking under the beach umbrella. It’s the Brazilian version of pic-nic! During summer, the beach front restaurants get packed at lunch time, with people gathering around the tables to have sea-food petiscos (the Portuguese word for fingerfood or tapas) with a cold beer or Caipirinha cocktail (check the recipe here) . Many of these petiscos are deep-fried and amongst the most beloved ones is the prawn croquette. Made with prawn shell stock, these croquettes carry an intense flavour of prawns that are a perfect match with my saffron mayonnaise or a good hot chilli sauce.
In the classic recipes the croquette is made by processing the prawns with the croquette dough. My version has basically the same flavours, however I like the idea of keeping the prawn whole so, apart from the smooth croquette and the crunchy crumb, it is also possible to feel the texture of the prawns.
20 large prawns, whole
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbs unsalted tomato paste
1 carrot, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 tbs parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
200g plain flour
Freshly ground black peppercorns and salt to taste
2 egg whites
1 cup breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
A good pinch of saffron threads
1 tbs hot water
½ cup home-made or good-quality store-bought mayonnaise
Lime or lemon wedges, to serve
1. Peel and devein the prawns, keeping the tails intact. Reserve the shells and discard the heads.
2. In a large frying pan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat and fry the onions, stirring for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the shells, tomatoes, tomato paste, carrot, garlic, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and stir for a further 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the mixture into a food processor with milk and blend to a paste. Strain and reserve the juices (yields approximately 400ml). Discard the solids.
4. Return the strained juices to the frying pan over medium-heat, stir in the herbs and slowly stir in the flour. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture comes to a ball. Transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool.
5. For the saffron mayonnaise, in a small bowl mix water with saffron and stir until water becomes yellow. Pour the mayonnaise and stir until combined. Cover with plastic film and place it in the fridge until required.
6. Make 20 equal-sized balls (about 1tbs each) and place them onto a tray. Lightly season the prawns with salt and pepper. Grab 1 ball, flatten it on the palm of your hand and wrap each prawn leaving the tail uncovered. Place it back on the tray. Repeat with the remaining prawns.
7. Pour the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and the egg whites in another bowl. Line a baking tray with paper towel. Roll the croquettes in the egg whites then breadcrumbs. Half fill a deep-fryer or medium saucepan with vegetable oil and heat to 190°C or test the oil with a little piece of bread, if the bread turns gold in 30 seconds, the oil is ready for deep-frying. In batches, fry the croquettes for 3 minutes or until golden. Drain on prepared tray. Serve warm with saffron mayonnaise and lime wedges.