Gambas al ajillo y chiles

This is an essential tapas dish of prawns (shrimp in the US) in garlic and chilli — well I hope it is; my Spanish is somewhat dubious. I’ve seen it on some menus as Gambas al pil-pil, but my title seemed more flamboyant.

This is a really simple tasty dish. I have no idea why I hadn’t thought of making it before today… don’t let that worry you; all my best creations come from taking a guess at how they should be done. This one came out spot on.

These quantities served two for lunch.


  • about ¼ cup of good olive oil
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • dried chilli flakes, quantity to taste
  • ½ lb peeled uncooked tiger prawns — make sure you get uncooked else they will come out overcooked
  • ½ cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to season
  • flat leaf parsley to garnish


  • a pan — I like black iron myself
  • 2 small heat-proof dishes to serve in


  1. Heat the serving dishes in the oven, you want them hot.
  2. Get your pan nice and hot then reduce to a medium flame.
  3. Pour in the oil and add the garlic and chilli — this should be a spicy dish, but don’t overdo it as the oil will bring out all the flavor from the chillies.
  4. Let the flavors infuse for a minute or so, reducing the heat if the garlic begins to brown.
  5. Crank up the heat, throw in the prawns and stir for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the wine and reduce by about half. The prawns should curl a little.
  7. Season then transfer to the heated dishes and garnish.
  8. Serve with a wedge of lemon and plenty of soft bread to mop up that juice.
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