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Recipe  •  30 May 2023


Coconut broth prawns with fried aromatics

This dish is inspired by South East Asian flavours and is all about building depth starting with the base, which uses prawn shells to make a rich and spicy broth.

Feel free to add other types of fish or shellfish, cooking them directly in the broth. Serve this with the fragrant coconut rice (p. 196) or just plain jasmine or brown rice.

Serves 4

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes


  • 750g large tiger prawns, shells and heads on
  • 2 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed with the side of a knife
  • 40g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 50g lemongrass stalks (about 4), roughly sliced
  • 8 large makrut lime leaves
  • 3 red chillies, roughly sliced, seeds and all (45g)
  • 1 tin of full-fat coconut milk (400g)
  • 60ml double cream, plus 2 tbsp extra to serve
  • 250g datterini or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • salt

Fried aromatics

  • 105ml olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 red chillies, thinly sliced at a slight angle, seeds and all
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 15g coconut flakes (aka coconut chips)
  • 15g picked basil leaves


Peel the prawns – remove the heads and shells and set these aside. Devein the peeled prawns and refrigerate until needed.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, over a medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and prawn heads and shells and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until deeply red. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves and chillies, and cook for a minute more, until fragrant. Add the coconut milk, cream, 450ml of water and 1 teaspoon of salt, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover with the lid and leave to cook for 25 minutes. Strain through a sieve set over a large bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract as much flavour as possible (discard the solids, or save them for another use). Rinse out the sauté pan; you’ll use it again later.

Meanwhile, make the fried aromatics. Put the oil, garlic, chillies and ginger into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the coconut flakes and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for 4 minutes more, or until the garlic and coconut are golden and the chillies transparent. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Add the basil leaves to the frying pan and cook for 2–3 minutes more, or until deeply green and translucent. Drain them in a sieve set over a bowl, reserving the aromatic oil. Transfer the basil to the plate of fried aromatics. Wipe out the frying pan; you’ll use it for the prawns.

Add a tablespoon of the aromatic oil to the large sauté pan and place over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes and cook for 6-7 minutes, or until charred and starting to burst. Add the strained broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, then keep on a low heat while you fry the prawns.

Lastly, heat the large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Toss the prawns with ⅓ teaspoon of salt and 2 ½ tablespoons of the aromatic oil. Once the pan is very hot, fry the prawns for 60–90 seconds per side (flipping just to get them nice and coloured). If you’re overcrowding the pan, do this in two batches.

Divide the broth between four shallow bowls and top with the fried prawns. Squeeze a lime wedge over each of the bowls and drizzle each bowl with ½ tablespoon of the extra cream and a teaspoon of the aromatic oil. Top with the fried aromatics.

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