It is a shame that many of us just bin the shells and heads whenever we serve up a prawn or langoustine dish, especially when what we discard gives such a wonderful fragrance and taste when used to make a contemporary-Irish-inspired shellfish bisque that keeps you warm as toast in nippy March in Stockholm.
40 g butter
300 g legs, claws, heads and shells of cooked langoustines, chopped up into small pieces
200 g heads, legs and shells from uncooked mid-size prawns*
150 g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
100 g red onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 x 400 g tins of tomatoes, finely pureed in the tins’ juices
500 ml water
2 cubes vegetable stock
3 tsp sugar
200 ml cooking cream
3 tbsp XO cognac
Ground black pepper
Sprigs of fresh mint
Sheets of seasoned laver or nori**, julienned
* Avoid using the shells of tiger prawns as their black pigment will seep into the bisque, staining its surface with countless fiery red globules.
** Laver or nori is dried or roasted seaweed that is used for food in China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. You can get it from Asian grocers.
- Melt the butter in a pot over a medium heat.
- Add the shallots, onions and garlic, and season.
- Sweat everything, over a low heat, in the covered pot for 8 minutes to soften the shallots and onions.
- Add the bashed langoustine bits and prawn heads, legs and shells to the uncovered pot and turn the heat up to medium.
- Stir regularly for 10 to 20 minutes. You will see all the prawn bits turn bright red and the langoustine ones light golden.
- Add the juicy pureed tomatoes, stock cubes, water and sugar, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Simmer for 45 minutes in the covered pot. You must be able to smell the prawns and langoustines and taste them in the broth.
- Pour the shell mixture through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean pot.
- Warm the sieved broth up again over a medium heat.
- Stir in cream and cognac, seasoning to taste.
- Heat the bisque through over a low heat.
- Serve warm, garnished with mint and laver, along with sesame grissini and cheddar twists on the side.