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How to cook and peel prawns

Prawns on a plate
Image | Matt Slater © Copyright | Cornwall Good Seafood Guide


Cooking and prep time 30mins 
Serves 4 as a starter
500g live Cornish prawns (Palaemon serratus)
2 litres Seawater or 
Tapwater and salt 
Pan with lid
Serve with some good fresh bread
Add lemon and mayonnaise to taste


You just can’t beat the flavor and texture of Cornish prawns, straight out of the sea and cooked in salted water. They are small but the flavor and texture is incredible in comparison with frozen prawns or farmed imported prawns, local pot caught prawns are far more sustainable too! 

Peeling prawns is something that puts some people off but once you have the knack its very easy and it adds to the enjoyment. Sitting and peeling a pile of prawns is slow food at its best, and is best enjoyed with a glass of cold white wine or beer and good company!  

Catch your own prawns or buy them live from your local fish monger. Prawns stay can be transported out of water alive for short periods of up to 24 hours as long as they are kept cool and damp.  They are best packed in an insulated container with some ice packs and covered in damp seaweed or wet cloth.
Before cooking cool them down in the fridge for a good 20 minutes to allow them to become sleepy.
Fill a large pan with clean seawater or if you don’t have access to seawater , tap water with salt added. It is traditional to add a good quantity of salt but some chefs don’t think it matters if you don’t salt the water – its up to you.  If you like them salty you can always add salt after cooking and this uses far less salt! 
Bring the water in the pan to the boil
Add the prawns and put on the lid- The prawns will die rapidly on immersion in the hot water and they instantly go pink in colour. Bring back up to the boil and then maintain gentle boiling.  Cook for a total of 5 minutes.
Over the sink pour out the prawns into a sieve or colander
Place in a bowl and allow to cool – add a little salt if didn’t cook them in salty water.
You can put hem in the fridge to speed up chilling 
Don’t peel them until they have cooled down (makes it easier if they are not too hot!)
Serve in their shells! 
To peel a freshly cooked prawn
Hold the head between first finger and thumb
With your other hand pinching behind the carapace slightly, pull the tail away from the head and carapace.
There is tasty juice inside the head that you can suck out!
With your thumb nail push up at the edge of the underside of the prawn and loosen the first couple of segments of the shell covering the tail and peel them off, including the legs. 
Then holding the tip of the tail and the tail fins firmly pull the meat out of the tail shell. 
There are many different ways to enjoy prawns - in a stir fry, a curry, a prawn cocktail, a paella, but to me the best way to appreciate this treat is to pair with a cold white wine or beer, eat with some buttered fresh bread and a squeeze of lemon and a bit of mayonaisse.
A taste of Cornwall. 



Cornish Waters

Prawns are caught using lightweight plastic prawn pots, which are selective and have no impact on the seabed.

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