Today my in-laws have flown back to Spain so in honour of their home (and my love of tapas) I am sharing one of my favourite tapas dishes. And I get to use the authentic tapas dishes that they bought me for Christmas. 🙂
Gambas Pil Pil, I love the name. It just rolls off the tongue. The name is the reason I first tried this dish, we were on holiday in Majorca and it had such a nice ring to it. Gambas Pil Pil. The name may have started it but the taste confirmed it! I ate it in every tapas place we ate in. My favourite was a little bar with a pool table. You could play pool, drink Cruzcampo (a Spanish beer) and eat plate after plate of delectable tapas. Their Gambas Pil Pil were amazing. Plump juicy perfectly cooked prawns sizzling hot in a deep bowl of garlic and chilli infused olive oil.
They also made a wonderful anchovy dish called ‘Boquerones en vinagre’ which was fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil then sprinkled with parsley and a touch of garlic. Also a perfect dish and one I have never recreated as we just don’t get the anchovies for them. If you ever get a chance to try this dish then give it a go, it is light years away from the salted anchovies that people associate with pizza. I love those anchovies too but these Spanish anchovies were in a different league. Anyway back to these prawns.
This is a simple dish that is best served with plenty of bread. It uses a lot of olive oil so it is not a dish for someone on a low fat diet, but it is beyond scrumptious. The prawns are cooked with plenty of garlic and chilli and the end result is a deeply savoury olive oil that compliments the sweet prawns perfectly. It is also a super quick dish, the prawns take a couple of minutes to cook and then you can dig in. It is a delicious starter or light lunch. Or you can cook up a bowl just for your self and devour the lot with a whole french stick.
Never done that 😳
Like I said at the beginning of the post I used my wonderful Spanish tapas dishes, but you can use any dish that can take the direct heat of your hob, or just a deep frying pan. You need to get the dish/pan very hot so that the oil sizzles and cooks the prawns quickly. If you see the Spanish cook these they have the heat voraciously high so that the flames are rising well above the dish. I am always a bit scared of setting my kitchen on fire so I just ensure the pan and oil are super hot.
When cutting the garlic you want large chunks or slices. If you cut it too small the pieces will burn in the hot oil and everything will taste slightly bitter. This dish is meant to be full flavoured so there is plenty of garlic and chilli in it. You can reduce the chilli or remove it completely depending on your tastes. Without the chilli this dish is known as Gambas al ajillo and is equally delicious.
Make sure you have fresh parsley for this as the grassy flavour finishes the dish well. And don’t forget plenty of bread, you will thank me for that.
I have a slight confession about my photos. The end dish does have a beautiful oily base, sadly that doesn’t photograph well, the light bounces off the oil and everything has too much glare on it. So to ensure you could see the plump prawns I didn’t pour all of the oil into my dish….sorry. But I promise hand on heart that once the photos were done I added every drop of oil and ate it as mentioned above, all to myself as a perfect and gluttonous lunch. 🙂
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Gambas Pil Pil
- 400 g raw prawns peeled but with tail on is best
- 100 ml olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes or two whole dried chilli
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
- De-vein the prawns and set aside on some kitchen paper to ensure they are very dry.
- Pour the olive oil into a small frying pan (or hob proof dish).
- Heat the oil over a high heat.
- Whilst the oil is heating up roughly chop or slice the garlic. Don't crush/grate the garlic as you don't want it too small or it will burn before the prawns are cooked.
- If you are using whole chilli, use scissors to chop into rounds.
- When the oil is hot, add the chilli and garlic.
- Give this a quick stir and then immediately add the prawns.
- Cook over a high heat for about a minute per side.
- Sprinkle with salt and the chopped parsley then serve immediately with chunks of bread.