If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I recently paid a visit to Lagos in the Algarve, Portugal. I spent four days relaxing on golden beaches with crystal blue waters. and exploring the winding, cobbled streets of Lagos town centre.
And, of course, stuffing my face with delicious Portuguese food. I’m not going to give too much away just yet about the food I ate, or what I got up to – that’s for another blog post – but there was one dish in particular that I just can’t resist shouting about.
The closest restaurant to where I was staying at The Big Chill Hostel, on Estrada da Ponta da Piedade, was the O Amigo Snack Bar. It was just like your average traditional pub inside (especially as you could smoke in there!) but it was in this cosy, little pub that I ate what was, by far, the best meal I had during my four days in Lagos.
Prawns “Amigo” (€10.80) consisted of jumbo king prawns cooked with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli, white wine, parsley and brandy. From the very first taste of that oily broth, the flavour just completely blew me away. It was almost addictive; if I lived in Lagos, I wouldn’t be able to stay away from this place. This dish was served in a clay earthenware dish and accompanied by a side of freshly boiled rice to mix in with the prawns, and a vibrant side salad.
I’ve tasted variations on this dish before; gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) are a popular Spanish tapas dish. but usually the prawns are served with fresh, crusty bread to soak up the silky, piquant broth. You could get away with serving this dish either as a main course with rice, or paired with crusty bread as part of a tapas selection; these Spanish meatballs in tomato sauce would be the perfect companion.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this dish after I got home, so I decided to have a go at making it myself. I had a look around for similar recipes online but I didn’t find anything quite like what I’d tried in Portugal, so I came up with my own recipe based on the ingredients the restaurant told me they’d used (apart from the brandy – I left that out). I gave the recipe a go, and the end result both looked and tasted incredible – almost as good as the real thing, but not quite!
I know I’m going to be making this recipe over and over again, and I urge you to give it a go too – or, even better – if you’re in Lagos, stop by at O Amigo Snack Bar and try out prawns “Amigo” for yourself. Need somewhere to stay nearby? If you’re travelling alone and watching the pennies then The Big Chill Hostel next door is your best bet, but if you’re in a group and looking for somewhere more up market, consider renting a villa from somewhere like James Villa Holidays.
This Portuguese dish of jumbo king prawns in extra virgin olive oil with dried chilli flakes, fresh garlic, tomatoes, parsley, sherry vinegar and lemon has a distinct, tangy taste that will leave you wanting more. Using raw, unpeeled prawns will add even more flavour but if you're looking to save time then frozen, raw, peeled prawns taste delicious too. Serve with fresh, crusty bread, or stir in some long grain rice for a healthier alternative.
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 200 g peeled and deveined jumbo king prawns raw
- 3-4 garlic cloves sliced (use more or less, dependent on how strong you'd like it to be)
- ½ - 1 tsp dried chilli flakes to taste
- 75 g plum or cherry tomatoes
- 100 ml white wine
- 200 g long grain rice cooked (125g uncooked, approx)
- 1 thick slice of fresh lemon
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- pinch of salt
Pour the olive oil into a heat-proof clay earthenware dish (if you don't have one, just use a frying pan like I did) and heat over a medium flame for 1-2 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic, chilli flakes, tomatoes and salt (to retain moisture) and cook over a medium heat for a further 2 minutes to release the aromas and impart sweetness, stirring continuously so the garlic doesn't burn.
Add the prawns and cook for no more than 3 minutes, so as not to overcook them; if you're using a clay earthenware dish, the prawns will continue to cook even after you've taken the dish off the heart.
Add the white wine, a dash of sherry vinegar, a thick slice of fresh lemon and chopped parsley, and stir to combine.
Stir the rice into the oily prawn broth (unless you're serving it with crusty bread, that is), and serve whilst still hot. You may wish to serve the rice in a separate side dish, so that it can be stirred into the dish at the table.
To avoid overcooking the prawns, prepare all the ingredients beforehand (including the rice and the side salad).
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