Cooking for friends has a pretty high effort-to-reward ratio. For chef Karena Armstrong of the Salopian Inn, the key to entertaining at home (and enjoying it) is putting in the prep time before everyone arrives.

“If I know I’ve got people coming around, I often treat it like restaurant service,” says Armstrong. “I will wash and pick my mint, pre-crush my ice and have it all ready to go. I have my bench all cleaned up and then all I’m doing is cooking, serving and laughing.”

For Armstrong, king prawns – with the addition of prosciutto, fermented grapefruit and chilli to make them sing – is a home-entertaining fave. She says you could almost consider them a leveled-up snack. “With a snack you’ve only got two or three bites to really make a moment,” says Armstrong. “So I love these because they’re so concentrated.”

She says the idea is to create complex flavours with minimum effort. Green king prawns bring sweetness. “The prosciutto actually does two things,” she says. “It seasons with really good salt to balance the sweetness of the prawn. And it also protects the flesh, so all the beautiful juices get encased inside the prosciutto.” Then you cook them over the flame until the prosciutto is lightly browned. Armstrong uses a hibachi grill, but a charcoal grill, gas barbeque or even a frying pan will do.

Then there’s the fermented grapefruit. Armstrong has access to plenty of grapefruit thanks to Salopian Inn’s kitchen garden, but she says lemons or any seasonal citrus kicking around works well. The idea is to use every bit of the fruit. Once you’ve juiced your citrus, the peel can be fermented with spices (here it’s curry leaves, cumin and coriander) a couple of days in advance, then combined with mayonnaise for a sour, complex prawn dipper. Preserved lemon tends to be readily available in supermarkets now too, so even if you’ve left your planning till the last minute you can still make it work.

A simple dish with complex flavours deserves a drink to match.

“There was an old tequila drink called a Tequila Sunrise,” says Armstrong. “It was the idea of a sweet, salty and sour thing going on.” For this drink Armstrong wanted to recreate that palate. Borrowing the use of tequila, she marries it here with grapefruit, ice, tonic and mint. “The ice is pre-crushed, but in the glass we almost muddle that mint and ice together so we’re releasing the oil from the mint,” she says.

The effect when entertaining at home, she says, is that the drink isn’t just a side-thought but a central component of the meal.

“When I make a cocktail it’s almost like making a dish,” says Armstrong says. “So you look at the balances. I find this tequila shows up citrus incredibly well and those really nice, floral, almost perfume-notes of that tonic water with the sour grapefruit. It’s stunning.”

Here's how to make Armstrong’s drink and dish at home.

Salopian Inn Sunrise
Makes 1 serve. Approx. 1 standard drink.

Ingredients:
30ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
50ml grapefruit juice
Fever Tree elderflower tonic
Fresh mint
Crushed ice

Method:
Add the ice and mint to the glass. Give the mint a good crushing in your hands to release the oils. Add the tequila and then the grapefruit juice and then top up with the tonic. Stir the cocktail and serve with hot prawns.

Barbeque king prawns, prosciutto, fermented grapefruit and chilli
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4, snack style

Fermented grapefruit skin (or use store-bought preserved lemon)
6-day process

Ingredients:
Per 1kg grapefruit or lemon skins
80ml white vinegar
125g fine salt
10 garlic cloves, peeled
30g Kashmiri chilli powder

For the tempering:
300ml neutral vegetable oil
40g cumin seeds
30g coriander seeds
10 curry leaves

Method:
Juice the grapefruit and set aside. Cut the grapefruit into quarters. Place into large bowl that fits into a steamer. Preheat the steamer. Add the vinegar, salt, garlic and chilli and mix really well. Steam the bowl uncovered for 25 minutes or until the pieces are soft. Remove from the steamer and cover with muslin cloth. Leave in a warm place or direct sunlight for 4 days. Stir each day.

To finish the ferment:
Heat the tempering oil and add all the cumin and coriander seeds. Fry until fragrant and then add curry leaves. While hot, pour spices over fermented lemon mix and mix really well. Pack tightly into sterilised jars and date.

Cover the jars with muslin seal with an elastic band or string. Ferment in the sun or a warm place for another 2 days. After the final 2 days, add a layer of olive oil over the top of the grapefruit to prevent spoilage. Then seal with a lid and store the labelled jar in a cellar or cupboard.

The grapefruit ferment lasts for at least 1 year and improves with age.

King prawns with prosciutto

Ingredients:
8 large green whole king prawns
8 thin slices prosciutto
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes
150g good mayonnaise
50g pickled grapefruit
Fresh herbs: coriander/dill/Vietnamese mint
Fresh grapefruit or citrus juice

Method:
To make the mayonnaise dice the pickle and then fold through the mayonnaise. Set aside for serving.

Peel the prawns’ mid-section, leaving the tail and head intact. Skewer the prawns and then wrap with the prosciutto. Heat a barbeque, grill or large frypan. Cook the prawns for 2–3 minutes on a high heat. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with the mayonnaise and fresh citrus juice and herbs.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Don Julio.