CHILLED PRAWN, COCONUT & LIME SOUP WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS & AVOCADO
For a chef - or anyone who lives for the infinite joys of food - it’s impossible not to be inspired by the colours and cuisine of Asia. Come to think of it, South African heritage cuisine is deeply influenced by the flavours of the old Spice Route, so you might say it’s in my blood! But it wasn’t until I started obsessing about Asia that I really engaged with the more exotic flavours and textures of this enigmatic corner of the world. The flavours in this soup are so simple and come together so harmoniously that you just know it’s going to work, leaving you with so much room to create a gorgeous visual feast. And as autumn dawns in South Africa, we’re still soaking up the last rays of summer sun, so this fresh, chilled soup is just perfect for one of those leisurely Saturdays or an inspirational moment to savour for yourself.
Travelling to Japan on honeymoon a few years ago, I was so inspired by their love of using edible flowers in their food. The idea is nothing new, of course, we’ve been beautifying our food across the globe for thousands of years. In India, rose petals are often used in desserts, and in Southern France and in Italy, zucchini flowers often add that touch of unapologetic flamboyance to a dish. I also have a bit of a thing for stuffing flowers, which should have been more than apparent in the début issue of JAN the Journal. Yes, flowers have been a passion of mine ever since I first saw my Ouma Maria doing one of her impeccable arrangements, which were legend throughout the greater Middelburg region in my native Mpumalanga.
I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on Asian cuisine. Let’s just call this an Asian-inspired fusion soup. More often than not, my inspiration for a dish comes from something visual and I wanted the star of this soup to be prawn ravioli and flowers. Of course, this couldn’t be regular ravioli or you wouldn’t see the floral flourishes. Instead of pasta I opted for rice paper, so when drifting in this creamy, coconutty soup, the rice paper creates these windows into the ravioli pockets that really showcase the delicate dianthus flowers that look almost like little brushstrokes in a painting. And I just love the way it looks in this ultraviolet casserole.
CHILLED PRAWN, COCONUT AND LIME SOUP
prep time: 1 hour / serves: 6
500 g large tiger prawns
10 ml olive oil
2 whole garlic cloves
1 lemongrass, slightly crushed
2 cm root of fresh ginger
handful of fresh coriander
5 ml fish sauce
1 litre of water
Rice paper prawn ravioli
15 ml butter
flesh of the large tiger prawns
juice of 1 lime
finely grated zest of 1 lime
about 20 sprigs of fresh chives, loosely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
small edible flowers of your choice
8 rice paper sheets
800 ml chilled coconut milk
45 ml fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced
400 g cooked prawns
1 avocado (from which to scoop out small balls)
fresh coriander leaves
small edible flowers
Clean the prawns but keep the prawn shells and heads. Devein the prawns and keep to one side. Wash the prawn heads and shells thoroughly.
Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan and add the prawn heads and shells. Fry for about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Fry for about 1 minute, then add the water.
Bring to a boil and place a lid over the saucepan. Now, lower the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
Take the saucepan off the heat and strain the stock through a muslin cloth.
Pour the stock back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it reduce to about 500 ml.
Rice paper prawn ravioli
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the prawn meat.
Fry until the meat turns pink, then remove the pan from the heat.
Chop the prawn meat into small pieces, add the lime juice, lime zest, chopped chives and season with salt and pepper. Let this mixture cool thoroughly to room temperature.
Soak one sheet of rice paper at a time in cold water until it’s soft. Then, place the sheet on your work surface.
Spoon the prawn filling onto the soaked rice paper and place a edible flower on top before folding the rice paper over, securing the edges. (The edges will become stickier and more secure.)
Once secure, trim the surplus edges of the ravioli (kitchen scissors work well here). Repeat until you’ve used up all the filling.
Pour the chilled coconut milk into a big casserole dish. Then, add the stock, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli and cooked prawns. Give it a taste to make sure it doesn’t need any more seasoning.
When you’re happy, add the ravioli, avocado balls, fresh coriander leaves and more edible flowers (if only for looks). Serve immediately.
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