Ingredient of the Week: Prawn
Prawns are a shellfish or crustation. They come in many sizes from the very small, size of your fingernail, to the very large, bigger than your hand. The larger varieties are often referred to as tiger or king prawns. All prawns have 10 legs. They are encased in an exoskeleton or shell, which is quite brittle. They have a narrow tapering body which curls round to form a tail and whisker like antennae. They can be found in both fresh or salt, cold or warm, water. The cold water varieties tend to have more flavour.
Prawns are enjoyed all across the world. They are popular in Mediterranean, Asian and American cuisine. There is a very common misconception that prawns and shrimp are the same crustation, when in fact they are ever so slightly different. Shrimp tend to be smaller and prawns have 3 sets of claws rather than 2 on their feet. They do however both taste and cook very similarly and so can be interchanged in meals with ease. You are more likely to find shrimp in America and prawns in Britain and Australia. Nutritionally they are also very similar and so I don’t tend to get caught up on which one I’m actually eating. I consider them both the same and for the benefit of this blog, consider them as one.
Why are they good for me?
Prawns are a good source of much needed protein to build and repair strong muscles. They are low in fat, which keeps them low in calories, making them a great healthy choice. Their protein content does tend to vary slightly depending on where they have been living and what they have been eating, but this fluctuation is at most within 10%.
Like most seafood, including salmon, Prawns are a good source of omega-3. This essential fatty acid is vital for good brain and heart health, as well as respiratory and neurological systems. Without it our bodies can not function.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant required by both men and women to help promote normal growth and development, especially of red blood cells, but also in other cells in the body as well. Prawns, like avocado, are an extremely good source of this important vitamin. It is believed that a diet rich in vitamin E can help protect against the damaging effects of high intensity exercise on the body, as well as reducing post exercise muscle soreness and so is a good vitamin for athletes.
How do I prepare them?
I don’t prepare prawns myself. I can’t deal with the fiddly process of removing the inedible shell, legs, head and antennae. It really makes my stomach turn if I even touch one. However I really enjoy eating them, so I just buy them already shelled, and only ever order them at a restaurant if I am confident that they will come ready to eat. They are readily available in supermarkets already prepared in both fresh or frozen forms and both are just as good. I can just about manage a prawn with its tail still on, but that is it.
How do I cook them?
Often when you buy prawns they are already cooked, even the frozen ones. If they are raw then they only need a few minutes, 2-6 depending on size. If they are already cooked then you can eat them straight away or just heat them through. You can cook them straight from frozen and don’t need to worry about defrosting them first. If prawns have been frozen and are starting to defrost then you must eat them straight away. Never refreeze as they will not be good to eat. Also be very careful not to overcook prawns. If you do the flesh goes tough and chewy, which trust me, isn’t good. One of the first meals Neil ever cooked for me was sweet and sour prawns, only he cooked the prawns for ages as he didn’t realise they came already cooked and so all the fluid from the prawns ran out in to the sauce and we were left with an incredibly runny soup with some shrivelled up lumps floating around in it.
Prawns can be stir-fried, like in this healthy sweet and sour prawn stir-fry. They can be added to a curry like this prawn and vegetable korma or this prawn and pineapple curry. Jazz them up a little, like in this Brazilian prawn stew, or simply grill or BBQ them.
If you, like me, are put off eating prawns because of the preparation and appearance, then this needn’t stop you from enjoying them or reaping their many health benefits. I hope you enjoy trying some of my prawn based recipes and please share your favourites in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.