Now, I’m capable of some serious levels of ineptitude when I want to be, but one of my finest and most long-term failures in life has to be the twin stupidities of failing to appreciate how lucky I was to spend 13 years living in Norfolk, and to take until my (very) late twenties to realise that I actually do, after all, love seafood.
(Not all, but a lot of it. But still, you’d think I’d have figured it out a bit earlier than that.)
But yes, I was lucky enough to spend my formative teenage years and early twenties in Norfolk and, like all young people, never realised what an amazing opportunity and situation I had until I didn’t have it anymore. It was only after I moved almost about as equidistantly from the coast as you can possibly get in the UK that I realised how much I missed the sea…and a county with the most stunning skies you could want to see.
And the food that came with it.
Yet somehow, it took me ages to go back. Years. Too many memories maybe, or too many other places to find and explore. Who knows. But when I did finally go back I was made very acutely aware of how much a place can become a part of you and how much you can miss it without realising when ‘life’ takes over, and so when the UK’s first lockdown ended, that was where I was headed. It was seafood season, we were free again, and the sun was out.
And my god, the seafood. So fresh and light, so incredibly flavourful and so incredibly inspiring as to all the recipes it could be used for. Suddenly I had to regret that I had spent so long not truly appreciating such a stunning county and it’s incredible coastline, and at the same time and even later had not been aware of the beauty of the produce it’s known so well for…and regret all the years I missed out on cooking with such amazing ingredients.
So on the journey home there was no way I wasn’t going to be raiding one of the many fishmongers that Norfolk are famous for. Which is how I came across the gorgeous, huge king prawns that inspired the first turn of what is now this recipe – something that’s light, fun, perfect for an easy going late summer evening dinner outside or for starters any time or so many other settings, you’ve got the beautiful sweet meatiness of the prawns with crispy filo pastry, rich sesame seeds, spices and lovely vegetables all – literally – rolled into one.
This is a really easy, quick and pretty light recipe to throw together, and overall the calorific impact is pretty forgiving and whilst it feels very much like – and is – something of a treat (good seafood is never anything but), it’s not entirely unbalanced in the health sense. It takes very little filo pastry to make these crispy, flaky treats and you could mix in other vegetables if you want (although if using something like a courgette in place of the julienne carrots, perhaps salt them lightly for half an hour to lose some moisture beforehand).
Whilst it’s a moveable feast in terms of ingredients – you could really take this idea wherever you want – it’s a great principle and this is how I like to do it, and it always reminds me of post-lockdown freedom in the late summer sun on the Norfolk coast.
- 180-200g uncooked prawns
- 1 X medium carrot
- 1/2 small red onion
- 4 x sheets filo pastry
- 3 tsp sesame seeds
- Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to season
- ½ tsp Cajun spice blend
- Paprika (to dust)
- Olive oil, to brush and seal
- Take the filo pastry out of the fridge to allow to become supple at room temperature – but don’t leave out entirely exposed to air so that it becomes brittle.
- De-vein the prawns and dice – you want a texture that still has some meaty chunks of prawn left but also that can bind together lightly with other ingredients.
- Wash and peel the carrot, removing the ends. Slice very thinly into short, tiny batons or julienne – or use a mandolin but use the damn guard, people!
- Very finely slice the onion, scattering the strips into the carrot and prawn mix. Add two third of the sesame seeds, holding some back for decoration.
- Season the filling mixture with sea salt and fresh black pepper to preference, add the Cajun spice mix (or spicing of your preference). Stir together well.
- Spread the first filo pastry sheet out on a board – this is based on a standard shop-bought, rolled-out pastry pack. Using a sharp knife, slice down the middle of the sheet leaving two equal squares. Lightly brush one with olive oil, and lay the other on top – it doesn’t have to be precise, rustic is fine!
- Slice the doubled pastry again to leave two strips, and put a generous tablespoon of the filling at the top of one of the strips. Pull the sides of the pastry onto the filling and fold along the same line down the entire strip.
- Brush the end of the pastry strips with a little more olive oil, then gently roll the strip into a parcel. Place fold-side down on a silicone matt or baking parchment in a baking tray.
- Repeat until all eight rolls are made. Brush all the surfaces gently and lightly with more olives oil, dust lightly with a little paprika and scatter the remaining sesame seeds.
- Bake in an oven pre-heated at 200 degrees (fan oven) until crispy and golden; serve with a leafy salad straight away, even better with chilli sauces or dressing of your liking too. Enjoy!