What’s cooking today: Queen prawns with pepper-chilli rice

What’s cooking today: Queen prawns with pepper-chilli rice
Tony Jackman’s queen prawns with pepper-chilli rice. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

No, not actual chilli bites (bhajis), this recipe is for spicy, garlicky prawns served with rice infused with plenty of chilli and peppers.

Pleon. Maxilliped. Telson. Pleopod and uropod. They’re all parts of a prawn, the bits and pieces we think of as feelers and legs and whatnot. (The telson is a part of the little tail at the end. Maxillipeds are up near the eyes.) And they’re all among the parts of a prawn that we’re going to boil down to make a flavoursome addition to the sauce for this recipe.

Cooking down the prawn offcuts gives a bit of backbone to the sauce that develops while you’re preparing this dish.

If you begin with whole prawns, rather than taking the easy route of buying deshelled and cleaned prawn tails, you’re sitting on a goldmine of potential flavour. So, while you’re cleaning the (thawed) prawns, put the bits and pieces you’re pulling and snipping off into a bowl to turn into a quick stock for the sauce.

This means pulling off the heads, then using a pair of sharp scissors to snip the little “legs” and all. Relax though: you’re not eating any of those bits as the resulting stock will be strained through a fine sieve.

(Serves 2)


18 queen prawns (yes, nine each, they’re little)

olive oil

4 shallots or 1 large white onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

half each of three bell peppers: red, green and yellow, diced

3 chillies: one red, one green, one yellow, diced

splash of whisky

juice of 2 limes

prawn offcuts

cold water

1 glass of white wine

salt and white pepper

basmati rice



Defrost the prawns in a sinkful of cold water; it’s surprisingly quick. Drain the water.

Pull the head off each prawn, then snip off the “legs” etcetera and put everything in a bowl. Using small scissors or a small sharp knife (I find that a paring knife works well), snip up the middle of the tail shell and pull out the “vein”. That bit you can discard. Leave the rest of the shell on each tail. So you’re left with shell-on tails ready to cook, and a bowl full of this and that.

Put all the offcuts in a pot on the stove, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and boil it down by about two-thirds. Then add a glass of wine and reduce it back to the same quantity.

Make a quantity of nice fluffy rice in your usual way, enough for two generous portions.

Prepare all the vegetables and have them to hand: the onion or shallots, peppers, garlic and chilli. Have the whisky to hand, as well as the limes (cut in half).

In a separate pot, add olive oil and all the vegetables, cooking them while stirring until everything is just cooked through but not discoloured. Add a splash of whisky and cook for a minute or two. Add the lime juice and stir.

Add the prawn stock to the vegetables, stir, season with salt and white pepper and let it cook for a minute or two.

Add the cooked rice and stir it through. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Keep the contents of this pot warm while you quickly fry the prawns.

In a heavy pan, heat olive oil on a moderately high heat and fry the prawns first shell-side down, adding a little cayenne pepper or paprika as you go, then turn and briefly fry the flesh side.

Serve immediately with the pepper-chilli rice, garnished with chopped coriander. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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