"This is our take on fregola con arselle, a classic Sardinian dish," says Ward. "Fregola was brought to Sardinia by Ligurian immigrants from a colony in Tunisia, and hence shares many similarities with the couscous of North Africa. When it's cooked like a risotto rather than steamed, the starch is released into the sauce, creating a creamy texture that's perfect with shellfish. Late-summer cherry tomatoes add a lovely sweet-acidic balance to round out the dish."
- 500 gm prawn heads (see note)
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced, trimmings reserved for stock
- 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced, trimmings reserved for stock
- 1 large carrot, finely diced, trimmings reserved for stock
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 100 ml olive oil
- 500 gm fregola
- 150 ml white wine
- 500 gm pipis (see note)
- 250 gm (1 punnet) cherry tomatoes
- 2/3 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1Preheat oven to 180C. Roast prawn heads or shells in a roasting pan, stirring occasionally, until deep golden (30-35 minutes). Remove from oven and deglaze pan with 250ml water, then transfer to a large saucepan, add 1.3 litres water and vegetable trimmings, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until well flavoured (1 hour). Season to taste and pass through a fine strainer into another saucepan and keep warm.
- 2Cook celery, onion, carrot and bay leaves in 60ml oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until caramelised, adding tiny splashes of water to prevent catching (7-8 minutes). Add fregola and 2 tbsp oil, stir to coat grains, then increase heat to high and stir continuously until fregola starts to caramelise (6-8 minutes). Add white wine and stir vigorously, then add shellfish stock a ladleful at a time, stirring and allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding the next. After 8 minutes, add pipis and cherry tomatoes and continue adding stock until pipis open and fregola is creamy and al dente (10-12 minutes). Season to taste and serve scattered with parsley and drizzled with chilli oil.
Note Order prawn heads ahead from your fishmonger; crab shells also work. You can also substitute the pipis with clams or vongole.
Drink Suggestion: 6 Mura Bianco Vermentino di Sardegna 2012, Sardinia. Drink suggestion by Nigel Ward