These grilled prawns always featured during our long lazy Sierra Leonean brunches under the shaded veranda. Three generations of family members plus as many friends and neighbours (who felt like it) would hang out, have important business conversations (or gossip in shorthand). We children would play, jumping off the veranda wall, throwing sticks at the mango trees to try and get mangoes to fall. I’ve learned since being in the UK that people do this to get conkers. Good for you, I’ll stick to mangoes. All this fun was just the sideshow to filling up with plantains, chicken, jollof rice and these prawns.
Drinks were an important part of these gatherings. The “coolman” ice box would be laden with ice cold ginger beer for the children and beers for everyone else. It was an honour to be the ‘keeper’ of the bottle opener so just as much as it was to get the coldest ginger beer from the bottom of the ice box.
That memory popped into my mind when the newly formed Waitrose Cellar asked me to take part in their unusual pairing event. We were asked to come up with an unusual pairing of food and wine. As I’ve said, everyone assumes that West African food automatically goes with beer but actually, it can be paired very well with wine. So, now that I have grown up, and realise that champagne works very well (but champagne is really rather hard to get in Sierra Leone), it was obvious to pair their Alexandre Merlin Champagne with Sierra Leonean grilled prawns.
I recreated this with OH and a few friends in the shade of an old damson tree and it went down a storm. I used tiger prawns (why not push the boat out?) but normal prawns – or even lobster – would both taste as good. You have to balance the amount of chilli, but a little bit helps the prawn flavour come out, without destroying your taste buds. And the crisp, fizzy, dry champagne perfectly complements the meaty fishyness of these prawns. Perfect for a summer day.
This champagne is part of the ultimate 6 bottle case picked by the Waitrose Cellar specialists. There is definitely something for all occasions in the box. We have been working our way through the rest of the case with both usual and unusual pairing with great success.
My friends now want to come round to sample the remaining wine paired with the papaya idea.
Thanks to Waitrose for sending me their ultimate cellar case and some vouchers to create this recipe.
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Alexandre Merlin Champagne with African Grilled Prawns
- Mix all the ingredients including the oil together and let marinate for at least 30 mins.
- Cook the prawns for about 2-3 minutes on each side on your barbecue - until they are cooked through.
- Serve the prawns straight away, or they are very good cold for picnics.
- These grilled prawns pair well with some chilled Alexandre Merlin Champagne from Waitrose.