No More Overcooked Prawns!

May 14, 2012

I had the privilege of watching Matt Horn of Cowichan Bay Pasta‘s cooking demonstration at the Cowichan Bay Spot Prawn Festival on Saturday. I thought I would share the recipe and a few tips I learned from Matt about how not to overcook prawns, how to make fresh pasta, and what to use instead of lemons to keep ingredients entirely local.

Matt Horn, Cowichan Pasta Company with host Bill Jones

Matt showed the standing room-only crowd how to cook — to perfection — Poached Spot Prawns on Fresh Linguini with Nettle Pesto.

Matt started by combining the pasta ingredients in a food processor. Once processed, he kneaded the dough into one piece, covered it with plastic, and let it sit for 20 minutes. When the dough was ready, he fed it through a Kitchen Aid mixer pasta-press attachment. In minutes, Matt transformed the thick pasta dough into thin linguini strips with such ease and fluidity the audience cheered when he finished. If Matt’s day job doesn’t work out for him, he could work as a salesman for Kitchen Aid because I’m sure pasta-press sales increased after his demo.

For the Nettle Pesto, Matt combined the ingredients in the food processor. He explained how the fromage frais from Hillary’s Cheese eliminates the need for olive oil, which can’t be found on Vancouver Island. When we tasted the finished dish, the fromage frais gave the pesto an incredible creamy quality. He explained how roasting hazelnuts, then rubbing them together in your palms helps to remove the shells. And he uses ver jus, a product sold at many Cowichan wineries, instead of lemons to keep the recipe entirely local.

But it was in poaching the prawns that I learned the best tips of all. If I have ever cooked prawns well, it was by accident. Matt explained how to poach prawns to perfection, every time. Here’s how:

  1. Take the heads off the prawns. Do this as soon as you buy them. If left, the decomposing heads make the meat in the body of the prawn taste nasty.
  2. Place the prawns in a large bowl, tails still on. Bill Jones explained that peeling off the prawn shells when the prawns are fresh is tricky because the meat doesn’t pull away from the shell easily.
  3. Pour boiling water over the prawns until they are all covered.
  4. Let them sit until the water is cooled.
Done! That’s all the time prawns need to cook perfectly. To bring them back up to the temperature of your dish, toss the prawns with the hot pasta and pesto mixture before serving. 

Bon Appetit!

The Recipe

Pasta Dough:
3 cups flour
4 eggs
2 Tbsp water

In a food processor combine all the ingredients and pulse till your dough comes together in a ball.

Dump dough and kneed till it comes smooth and firm. Let rest for 20 minutes and then roll through your pasta machine to the thickness you prefer.

Dust with flour and cut pasta into linguine strips with your pasta machine or a sharp knife. Dust again with flour and reserve.

Stinging Nettle Pesto:

4 cups stinging nettles
1/2 cup fromage frais
1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 Tbsp ver jus
2 garlic cloves, minced salt to taste

Blanch nettles in boiling water, chill in ice water after, squeeze out excess water. In a food processor puree all the ingredients until smooth.

Season with salt to taste. Serve with 1 lb poached and peeled prawns. To poach prawns, pour boiling water over fresh prawns and peel when cooled enough to handle – about 5 minutes.


  1. Thanks for posting this!
    So good to know how to cook prawns well. I always put them in salted boiling water(on the cooker) until they float to the top of the pot which happens almost immediately. I will try this way next time!

    1. We tried this method last night and they were amazing. I think it’s the first time I haven’t overcooked prawns in my life!

      Thanks for your comment Jaclyn.


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