Prawn ‘sizzle’ with bay & fennel

by Rosie Birkett

A celebration of summer from Rosie Birkett

Do you remember when restaurants used to serve cast iron dishes of sizzling ingredients to the table? I might be showing my age, but when I was growing up, this was definitely a thing. My parents’ favourite pub at the time, The Dirty Habit in Kent, used to do an amazing dish of prawns drowning in olive oil, garlic and chilli, served still sizzling, with a crusty baguette to dip in the juices. My dad loved it so much that he worked meticulously to recreate it at home, and it became his signature ‘sizzle’.

This is a version with bay and fennel, which add an extra aromatic dimension. The key is to do what the late Peter Birkett did and have all your ingredients prepped beside the stove and the prawns coming up to room temperature 10 mins before you cook them. Once that’s done and the potatoes are cooked, this is ready in minutes—perfect for lazy summer lunching.


250g small new potatoes, skin on
A large handful of samphire
1 tbsp butter
Juice of ½ lemon
100ml extra virgin olive oil
6 fresh bay leaves
½ fennel bulb, finely sliced
½ red chilli, finely sliced
Zest of ½ lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
200g raw, shell-on king prawns
50ml white wine
Crusty bread, to serve
Lemon wedges, to serve


Cook your potatoes in plenty of boiling salted water, until tender—about 12-15 mins. My test for this is to pierce one with the tip of a sharp knife and if it slips off the blade easily, they are done. Once tender, add the samphire into the water and blanch for a minute or so, until softened. Drain off the water and throw in a knob of butter. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm while you make the sizzle.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan or, better still, a cast iron skillet, over a medium to high heat. Add the bay, fennel, chilli, lemon zest and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes to infuse the oil with all those lovely flavours.

Add in the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until the shells have changed colour and are starting to caramelise, then deglaze with the wine, cooking for about 1 min, until it’s evaporated.

Drizzle over a little more extra virgin olive oil and serve with the potatoes, samphire and crusty bread for mopping up those juices.

Recipe: Rosie Birkett
Images: Helen Cathcart