Prawns with wild garlic butter: simple and delicious

Jess Murphy: Poached Dublin Bay prawns, coronation crab and saltwater potatoes

Growing up in New Zealand and coming from a long line of hunter-gatherers meant I was always in the sea. This was pre-hipster, 1990s Jess. Things have changed since the days my brother and I would dive for sea urchins while, at low tide, Mum would gather crabs and paua, our native abalone.

We used bailing twine from the shearing sheds to tie old potato sacks to our wetsuits and fill them to the brim with shellfish before taking them back to our grandmother’s house. She would sit on the broken back step in her housecoat and tenderise the abalone with a lump hammer. Then we would boil the crabs before each taking a seat on a page or two of the local newspaper and dine alfresco, armed with our own hammers and rolling pins.

I’d recommend not doing this in your bare feet, though: a direct hit to the toe with a claw hammer and you could lose a nail. I learned that the hard way.

Cooking fish and shellfish doesn't have to be complicated. Make a batch of court bouillon, a poaching liquid, and the work is almost done

My other nana was from a tribe on the east coast called Ngati Porou. When relatives visited we used to catch loads of crayfish. Unfortunately for the poor crayfish – and for us eating them – my grandmother used to curry them. My dad still says, “Hey, love, remember when Nana used to destroy all those crayfish?” and we laugh our heads off.


In fairness to her, she was an amazing baker. At least she had that. She was diagnosed with dementia and passed away two years ago, so to honour her in the best possible way, every lobster season in Galway I make this fantastic coronation mayonnaise and serve it in the restaurant with lobster and peppery radishes.

While I work I like to think of her in her kitchen listening to Maori radio, cooking away on her old Fisher & Paykel oven she had bought brand new in the 1950s. That oven was her pride and joy; she kept it so pristine that the appliance company took it back after she died, and it is now on display in a museum in Wellington.

Cooking fish and shellfish doesn’t have to be complicated. Make a batch of court bouillon, a poaching liquid you can use to cook any fish or shellfish, and the work is almost done. You can use it to cook whole crab to serve with my coronation mayonnaise, or poach prawns in it and serve them with wild garlic butter. Make a big batch of the butter now, while wild garlic is in season, and freeze it for use later in the year.

You will find saltwater-potato recipes from all around the world. In my version I boil the saltwater until it evaporates, for maximum salt crystallisation on the potato skins. Use the freshest baby potatoes you can, and serve with some melted wild garlic butter or the coronation mayonnaise – or both, for maximum enjoyment. I like to use Pink Fir Apple potatoes from Ballymakenny Farm, but any waxy new potato will work in their place.


For poaching fish and shellfish

200g dillisk seaweed (fresh or dried)
1 bunch thyme
4-5 sticks of celery
3 large carrots, chopped
1 bunch of lovage
3 whole lemons, quartered
3 bay leaves
1tsp white pepper
1 large white onion, chopped
40ml cider vinegar
2 500ml bottles of ale (I like to use Galway Hooker)
2tbsp salt

Place all of the above ingredients in the largest pot you have and top up with cold water. With the lid off, bring to a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a new pot. (You can compost the solids.)

Now you have an amazing poaching liquid for prawns, crabs, lobsters and large fish such as salmon or trout. With the warm days coming up and lobster season approaching, you might want to keep some on hand in the freezer.


Serves 4-5

2 whole fresh crab (uncooked)
3tbsp mayonnaise
2tbsp creme fraiche
1tsp hot sauce
2tbsp madras curry powder (I like the Green Saffron one)
1 whole lemon, juiced
1tbsp sweet mango chutney

Bring the court bouillon to the boil. Lower in the crab and simmer for 12 minutes per kg, then leave to cool in the pot until it is cold.

Place all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Serve with the crab, from which you have picked the white and brown meat and cracked the claws. You could also serve the mayo with lobster, or with torn chicken, which makes a fantastic sandwich filler.


Serves 4-5

30 raw prawns, shell on. I use Dublin Bay prawns, aka langoustines

For the wild-garlic butter
400g butter, slightly softened
250g wild garlic
75g capers
Zest of two lemons
1tbsp sumac

Drop the cleaned prawns into a pot of boiling court bouillon and turn off the heat. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they curl and turn pink – between one and two minutes, depending on their size.

Remove the prawns from the pot and put them straight into an ice bath (a bowl of water and ice cubes mixed), to chill.

Wash the wild garlic thoroughly and roughly chop it, along with the rinsed capers. Add this to the softened butter with the lemon zest and sumac and roll like cookie dough into a sausage shape. Wrap it in greaseproof paper or cling film and chill, or freeze until needed. The wild-garlic butter is a fantastic way of preserving wild garlic through the winter. It’s good on grilled meat, too.

Drain the prawns and arrange a nice pile of them on a platter, with a small bowl of the melted wild garlic butter nestled into the pile, with some lemon wedges on the side.


Serves 4-5

900g Pink Fir Apple or waxy new potatoes (for example Anya or Charlotte)
1tbsp good sea salt, such as Maldon or a coarse Irish sea salt

Combine the potatoes and salt in a wide pan and add enough water to just cover the potatoes.

Set the pan over a high heat and bring to a fast boil. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a strong simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are just tender – about 15-25 minutes, depending on size.

Pour off all but 1cm of the water and return the pan to the hob. Increase the heat to high and roll the potatoes around in the reduced saltwater until the liquid evaporates, the pan is completely dry and the salt crystallises; this will take about three minutes.

Continue rolling the potatoes around until the pan is completely dry and the potatoes are evenly coated in a salt crust – about another minute or two. Serve immediately in a warmed dish.