In this age of "instant" appliances and meal kits, recipes that take more than an hour are often optimised and streamlined, or ignored completely. But flavour extraction can take time, and this intense, prawn-packed sauce base is worth every minute.
Photo: Claire Lower
Usually, when I think of blueberries, I think of muffins, pie and Blueberry Morning - a cereal I was obsessed with from ages nine through 12. These are all good things, but I urge you to reconsider the blueberry, and smother steaks, chops and wild game with this juicy, surprisingly balanced pan sauce.
The recipe for this base, which is thicker than stock with a much more concentrated flavour, takes the whole prawn (shell and all); simmers them with wine, garlic and vegetables; then smashes them in to oblivion.
The resulting flavour-blasted liquid can then be divided into cubes, frozen, and added to any savoury dish that you want to taste better. Rather than making its target taste prawny, it simply gives it more oomph by way of rich umami, concentrated vegetal essence, and a bit of jammy sweetness.
If you're into meal planning - and everyone should be - add this to your Sunday prep work. It isn't quite meal planning - I think of it as "flavour planning" - but it's a step you can take to make sure you never eat a bland meal all week.
To make it, you will need:
- 450g of prawns, shells on and deveined (since you will be smashing the prawns into oblivion, there's no need to get too precious; frozen is fine)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, diced fine
- 1 leek (green part and all), thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, diced fine
- 1 shallot, diced fine
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 cups of white wine
- Salt and pepper
Add butter and olive oil to a large stock pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
Once the butter is melted completely and the pan is nice and hot, add the prawns, season it with salt, and cook, smashing it gleefully with a wooden spoon until it is firm and pink.
Add celery, carrot, leek, onion, shallot and garlic. Season it with some more salt, and continue to cook and smash until the alliums are soft.
Create a little well in the centre of all the deliciousness and add your tomato paste. Let it brown a bit, then stir it to coat the veggies and prawns.
Add the fresh tomato, stir once more, and cook for another five minutes.
Stir in the wine, and let it simmer until you no longer smell any alcohol coming off of it.
Cover everything with water, and let it all simmer for several hours, skimming any scum off of the top as it appears.
Let it reduce until the vegetables and prawn bits are poking through the top of the liquid - you want it to look more like a mash of very wet produce rather than a soup - then strain it, ladle by ladle, through a sieve, mashing everything with a spoon as it drains.
Pop it in the fridge to solidify the fat, skim that off, and pour it into some ice cube trays.
Then, the next time you have a soup, risotto, pasta sauce, pan sauce, gravy or stir fry that needs a blast of flavour, simply melt the umami cubes in with your dish, give it a stir, and profit. (Your profit will be deliciousness, not cash, but that's still pretty good.)