Prawn Escabéche

 – by Toby Thomas, Head Chef at Norwich Theatre Royal in-house restaurant Prelude.

I was lucky enough to learn on the job at the Wildebeest Arms at Stoke Holy Cross. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to university, then I was offered a Kitchen Porter job, and then suddenly, there was another vacancy available, and I progressed from there. I was lucky enough to learn from some wonderful chefs, including Eden Derrick, Brendan Ansbro and Daniel Smith.

My wife Rachel and I ran an outside catering business for 12 years, including events and weddings at National Trust venues and canapé and dinner parties.

My proudest catering moment was organising and delivering David Adlard’s daughter’s wedding. It was a huge pressure, but we were thrilled to be chosen by the great chef.

Here is a recipe to try; which is one of our most popular starters on Prelude’s summer menu.

Ingredients: serves 4

    • 20 King Prawns, shelled and deveined

    1 fennel bulb

    1 red onion

    1 tsp thyme

    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

    3 bay leaves

    1 tsp fennel seeds

    100g toasted pine nuts

    100g sultanas

    • 300ml white wine vinegar

    75ml olive oil

    100ml honey

    Pinch of saffron

    • Warm crusty bread
    to serve


    Begin by peeling and deveining the prawns, and refrigerate until needed. Thinly slice the red onion and fennel.

    Lightly toast the pine nuts and fennel seeds until golden, and then remove from heat. In the same pan, add the olive oil and gently cook the thinly sliced red onion and fennel for 3 -5 minutes on a medium heat until translucent. Once cooked, add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer for one minute.

    While this is cooking, remove the prawns from the fridge and lay them in a shallow dish. Pour the warm mixture over the prawns, making sure they are submerged. Allow to cool slightly before placing in the fridge for four hours to allow time for the prawns to absorb the flavours.

    Take prawns out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to wanting to serve them. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread and white wine.

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