Quick Bites from Pender

Ouzo Steamed BC Spot Prawns

In Did You Know, Island Life, Recipes on May 10, 2010 at 5:03 am


Trap caught BC Spot Prawns have gained a lot of fame here at home in the past few years — they’re some of the biggest, juiciest sweetest shrimps in the world, AND they’re sustainable, local and (relatively) affordable.

I fear, however, that things may be about to change. 

As I write, oil is hitting the Louisiana Marshes, and BP is unable to cap the well of oil gushing into the Gulf  of Mexico.  Fisherman, tour operators, their families, their suppliers and countless others have lost their livelihoods, and the world has lost a very important source of food — fouled for what is most likely decades.

And while we consider the environmental, economic, political and social fallouts of this disaster, the world’s demanding luxury food markets will quickly demand replacements for the shrimp, crab, oysters and fish that, until recently, were pulled from The Gulf.


And here’s where my monologue gets a little narcissistic — I understand that what is unfolding is a tragedy of epic proportions — but I also find myself concerned about what will happen to our fishery here on the west coast.  Our seasonal harvests of spot and side-stripe prawns, mussels, dungeness crabs, and halibut will become the apples of many eyes — and we will have to pay more.  Much, much more.

Phew!  An unusually serious discussion for IV — they happen occasionally, but rather than belabour, I like to eat.  So we got our butts down to the dock on the weekend for the first Prawn Saturday of the season.  Ten bucks buys you a pound of live wrigglers — we bought 2 — Carpe Diem, and all that.

prawn-boat-pender-island spot-prawn-scale

Once we were home, I kept the prawns on ice in a cooler until I was ready for them. I served them with a Yellow Pepper Romesco Mayonaisse for dipping, some Sourdough Crusty Rolls from Medicine Beach Market, and a Watercress and Sheep Feta Salad.


We had a lot of prawns left over.  They were just too big, meaty and rich to eat all of them in one sitting. I went to bed dreaming of a Pender Island Cobb Salad for next day’s lunch…

Ouzo Steamed Spot Prawns
Serves 3-4 (or 2 with leftovers)

BC Spot Prawns 2 lbs 1 kg
Fennel ½ bulb
Garlic, peeled & halved 3 cloves
Whole Peppercorns 6
Coarse Salt 1 t 5 ml
Water ½ C 180 ml
Ouzo ½ C 125 ml

Lbs=pounds          kg=kilograms         t=teaspoon
ml=millilitres        C=cup

Keep the prawns refrigerated until just before you’re ready to add them to the pot.

Trim the fennel of the root and top ends.  Reserve the fronds for a garnish.  Remove the core and slice thinly (on a mandolin if you have one).  Add the fennel, garlic , whole peppercorns and salt to a stockpot.  Add the water and ouzo, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the prawns and immediately recover.  Steam for 2-3 minutes, shaking and tossing the pan 3 or 4 times during cooking.

Serve them heads on or off, with mayo for dipping, crusty bread and a small salad.  Large napkins and a discard bowl for the heads/shells are musts; lemon-water finger bowls are always a nice touch.

I prefer to remove the heads myself (a quick twist and pull is all you need), and refrigerate them, along with the cooking juices, fennel, garlic, etc to make a velvety bisque the next day.  I find most people prefer not to stare in the cold dead eyes of their food, then rip its head off.  Funny, that.


  • No ouzo?  Use 1 cup of dry white wine instead the ouzo and water.
  • Quick dips:  Spicy mayo with sambal oelek, fennel frond and lemon zest mayo, tartar sauce, jarred red pepper and fresh basil mayo…
  • Other sustainably caught varieties of prawns?  Go for it!


  1. Beautiful photos! The idea of fennel with prawns sounds absolutely lovely!

  2. What great pictures! It makes me want to go down to the dock and get myself some prawns. Too bad I’m in Arizona! Thanks for your post.

    • Thanks so much Nova! You may not have any prawns…but I’ll bet you’re laughing in the sun during Jan and Feb when you see all our nasty weather reports

  3. beautiful pics of the full prawns… such good protein!

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