Prawn, pork and sesame cakes
When it’s cold and wet outside I feel like there are two very clear, very different options for what to eat. Either it's some serious comfort food, a good book, and a warm, enveloping duvet, or it something with a good kick of chilli heat to drive the damp chill out of my bones. In the deepest darkest winters in New York I would make a bowl of rice noodles each morning with coriander, bean sprouts and steaming hot beef broth, piled high with sliced bird's eye chillies. This was rocket fuel for the trip from my little downtown studio flat to the relative warmth of the subway and finally the office. Here in London the cold seems less bitter, but somehow wetter and I find adding something fried and crispy to the chilli mix is the perfect remedy.
200g raw shelled prawns
60g streaky unsmoked bacon, the fattier the better
2 small shallots
2 tbsp dried shrimp
1-2 small bird's eye chillies
1 pinch flaked dried chilli
1 tbsp fish sauce
White pepper, finely ground
Black and white sesame seeds
Small handful coriander leaves, to garnish
What to do
If you have a food processor, blend together all the ingredients except the prawns and sesame seeds. Mince the prawns by hand (so they end up with a slightly coarser texture than everything else) and then mix well with the processed paste.
Have a bowl of water handy to dip your hands into every now and then. Take a small handful of the paste and roll into a rough ball before pressing down to form small, ‘two-bite’ sized cake. The water helps stop the mix from sticking to your hands. Ready a bowl with a shallow layer of the black and white sesame seeds. Heat a frying pan with a centimetre of oil to 160°C/320°F. Don't let it start smoking. Take a cake, pop it on the sesame seeds and then add to the oil seed side down. It should sizzle gently, if not, turn up/down the heat. Continue with the rest of the cakes and fry each for a minute or two on each side until deep golden brown and beginning to crisp at the edges.
Drain the cakes on some kitchen roll before them piling onto a plate and scatter over the coriander leaves. Serve with spicy lemongrass dipping sauce.