Tiger Prawns & Beans

Rate this recipe

Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

This combination works best with fresh cannellini beans - which are obtainable for a brief period during August - but it is also very good with premium-quality dried, which are always to be found in Italian shops. If none are available, then use haricots. Prawns ’n beanz sounds a slightly odd pairing, but is eaten avidly throughout central and southern Italy.

Tiger prawns are imported frozen in blocks, most often from the estuaries of rivers running into the Bay of Bengal. When sold in fishmongers or markets, they tend to have been defrosted and you will have no idea whether this was done the day before or, even worse, perhaps longer ago than that. It is, therefore, best to buy them frozen and only defrost them 3 hours before you are going to prepare them. This will give you the freshest taste and the best texture. Allow about 40 minutes to prepare the prawns prior to cooking.


  • 20 frozen tiger prawns in the shell
  • 450 g/1 lb fresh cannellini or 225 g/8 oz dried haricots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Gremolata
  • salt and pepper



Three hours before you intend serving the dish: remove the prawns from the freezer and spread them out on a tray at room temperature to defrost. (They are frozen in a water glaze to give the seller more profit and, as they defrost, you can watch the money drain away.)

After preliminary soaking (for general comments on cooking dried pulses), fresh cannellini take about 40 minutes to cook and the dried variety about 1½ hours. Bubble them in plenty of lightly salted water together with some black pepper, the bay leaf, chillies and whole garlic cloves for the requisite time. Skim frequently and top up with water as necessary.

Prepare the prawns by cutting carefully through the back and extracting the intestinal thread. Wipe the flesh inside with a damp cloth. Put them in cold salted water for 10-15 minutes, then swirl with your fingers, gently rubbing them. Transfer to a colander or sieve and rinse briefly under cold water. Leave to drain.

When the beans are done, remove the bay leaf, chillies and garlic and leave in the water to keep warm. Juice the lemon.


Put a large non-stick frying pan over a low heat to warm thoroughly before turning the heat up to medium. This is the best way to slow down deterioration of the non-stick surface. Put a cold non-stick pan over a high flame and you kiss the surface goodbye.

Put the prawns into a bowl with a spoonful of olive oil and some black pepper and toss to coat.

Throw them all at once into the pan and toss and stir for 2 minutes. The shells will blush and the prawns open along the cut, while the flesh becomes white and opaque. Do not overcook.

Put the prawns into a warmed serving dish, add the lemon juice, gremolata and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Drain the beans, add to the bowl and toss all together to mix thoroughly.


Serve at once, after reminding your guests that the allocation is 5 prawns each to avoid any ugly scenes.

Part of