Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prawn Cocktails


Okay, I admit it.  I love prawn cocktails.  That's right, daggy, old fashioned seafood-sauce-drenched prawns served in a martini glass.  For a while I have assumed this is something I should be ashamed about. But, this year my friend Ryan gave me a copy of the "Heston Blumenthal at home"cookbook for Christmas and I discovered I am actually incredibly cool.  That's because Heston apparently loves prawn cocktails too!  Page 125, people.  It's official; prawn cocktails are cool again.  So it seemed natural that Heston's prawn cocktails made an appearance at Christmas lunch this year.


In the Australian tradition, seafood plays a prominent role at Christmas lunch.  This is usually because it's stinking hot this time of year.  But I have no such excuses as the weather was a blissful sunny 25 degrees - unseasonably cool!  However, as this was my very first time hosting Christmas at my apartment, I stuck to the time honoured tradition - seafood for entree, roast meats for mains.  Mum brought two platters of buttery Sydney rock oysters and I concocted five martini glasses full of shredded lettuce, cubed avocado, sweet Crystal Bay prawns all doused in seafood sauce.  But not just any sauce - Heston's sauce.


What I love about Heston's recipe is that there's no dry ice, centrifuges or smoked-anything required.  How unexpected for him! He keeps it simple, forgives you for using store-bought mayonnaise (while gently directing you to his home-made mayonnaise recipe) and provides you with a few different options for jazzing up the sauce.  Vanilla beans scraped into your mayo, anyone?

I decided to take his suggestion to stir some finely sliced French tarragon into the mayo, as I have some growing in a pot in my courtyard.  It was delicious, providing just the right touch of aniseed to the sauce.  The real key to this recipe is buying the freshest, sweetest prawns money can buy and slicing/dicing all the ingredients as finely as possible.  When a recipe is as time-honoured as a prawn cocktail, dressing it up is all about the presentation.


Heston's Prawn Cocktail


- 1 kilogram cooked prawns (this is the pre-shelling weight - it will give you approx 500 grams when shelled)
- 1/2 iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon fresh French tarragon, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
- 1 avocado
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 100 grams mayonnaise
- 150 grams tomato sauce (ketchup)
- 12 drops Worcestershire sauce
-  salt and pepper to taste

First things first - shell and clean your prawns.  This is an icky job, but you will thank yourself for all this effort when you are able to scoff down your prawns at record speed later on.  Remove the legs of the prawns, then the shell, then pull off the head and, after slicing down the back of the prawn, pull out the brownish coloured vein which runs down the back of the prawn.  When this is done, I suggest you run the prawn under a little water to wash off any mess or grit which might have clung on inside the prawn.  Now, cover the prawns in a bowl with some cling wrap and pop the prawns in the fridge for later.

Next, finely slice your iceberg lettuce.  The finer the better!  Layer a little at the bottom of your glasses.  I only needed about half a small iceberg lettuce for this, but how much you need really depends on the size of the glasses you'll be using.




Now, dice your avocado into small squares, as small as you can manage.  Halve your lemon and squeeze  one half over your avocado squares and then fold the juice through to stop discolouration.  Grate the lemon zest from the whole lemon over the avocado and fold gently through.  Spoon the avocado on top of the lettuce in your martini glasses.




It's time to get saucy, people!  In a medium-sized bowl add your mayonnaise and tomato sauce and mix together.  I used a whisk for this, which helped get rid of the mayo lumps and make the sauce a nice, smooth consistency.  Now, add the 12 drops of Worcestershire sauce, the juice of the remaining half of the lemon and the French tarragon.  I added a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.  Be sure to taste it and add salt and pepper to your taste.  Heston calls for a pinch of cayenne pepper, but I left this out as I don't particularly like a kick in my prawn cocktail.





Pour the sauce over your prawns and fold until all the prawns are coated in sauce.  Spoon the prawns over the lettuce and avocado in your martini glasses.  Sprinkle the finely diced chives over the top as a garnish and devour!


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