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Garlic Prawns (Gambas Al Ajillo)

ingredients

48 small uncooked prawns, about 600 g, shelled and deveined, with tail shell left on
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
6 small dried chillies
8 small fresh bay leaves
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt

alioli

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a large pinch of salt
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus extra to taste
100 ml sunflower oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 individual cazuelas (terracotta ramekins), 10 - 12 cm diameter, preheated in a hot oven

method

1. To make the alioli, pound the garlic and a large pinch of salt to a smooth, thick, creamy consistency with a mortar and pestle. Slowly drip in the olive oil, mixing with the pestle. Switch to a whisk and mix in the lemon juice, pepper and, little by little, half the sunflower oil. Add 1-2 teaspoons cold water and whisk well while adding the remaining 50 ml oil. The mixture will be very thick. Set aside for at least 30 minutes for the garlic to mellow, then add salt, pepper and extra lemon juice to taste.

2. To prepare the prawns, put on a plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and fry until brown. Add the chillies, bay leaves and prawns all at once and fry without turning until the prawns are crusted and curled on one side, then turn them over and crust the other side, about 3 1/2 minutes in total.
Transfer to the preheated cazuelas, sprinkle with lemon juice and top with a spoonful of alioli.

3. Serve immediately while still bubbling hot.

Alioli, sometimes spelt 'allioli', is used with all sorts of dishes. Often an egg yolk is mixed in after the garlic is creamy, making it a little closer to the French aioli. It's pungent yet delicious. When first made, it is quite strong, but after about 30 minutes the flavour really mellows. For an even milder taste, blanch the garlic cloves until just soft, then pop them out of their skins and pound to a cream.

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