Pasta with Prawns and Pepperoni or Chorizo

This recipe comes from my friend Ferne. She’s made it for me twice, once in Canberra and once in Brisbane where she now lives. Both times it was delicious.

Any kind of pasta will work, but my preference is to use fresh fettuccine, sold in most Australian supermarkets in 375g packets.

With a mixed salad and some fresh crusty bread, this recipe will serve 4.

375g fresh fettuccine
20g butter
250-300g pepperoni or chorizo, sliced
350g peeled raw prawns (weight after peeling)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ a fresh diced chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
Handful chopped parsley
½ cup cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Cook pasta according to packet instructions then drain. Meanwhile heat butter in a large frying pan and cook pepperoni or chorizo for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add prawns and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until prawns turn pink. Add wine and lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat for 3-5 mins, to reduce the sauce by half. Add chilli and seasoning to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta, the parsley and cream. Divide between 4 bowls. Top with extra chopped parsley and drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Makes 4 servings

 

Pasta with Prawns and Capsicum

This recipe is adapted from one by Matteo Zamboni, who owns a restaurant in Sydney called Zambo. The recipe uses yabbies, a freshwater crustacean found in some parts of Australia. They’re not easy to buy in Canberra, so I used prawns instead. Zamboni uses Casarecce pasta, a shape I had never bought before, so I decided to try it and it was delicious. Use any shaped pasta that takes your fancy.

What makes this recipe special is the stock, made from the heads and tails of the prawns. It uses the same idea as this recipe for Prawn Bisque which I have been making for years. The heads and tails of prawns are packed with flavour, so why throw them away? It’s a little more time-consuming than most pasta dishes, but worth it.

400g Casarecce pasta (or another shape)
500g large green (raw) prawns
1 large red capsicum, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
Handful of parsley
2 Tbs toasted skinned hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or toasted pine nuts)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs brandy
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel prawns and cut them into two or three pieces. Keep prawn heads and shells. Heat 2 Tbs of the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two then add the tomatoes, prawn shells (not the actual prawns) and the stalks from the parsley. Cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes, then add the brandy and set alight. Finely chop the parsley leaves and keep aside.

Add a little salt and just enough water to cover the prawn shells, then simmer gently for half an hour. While the stock is cooking, press down on the solids from time to time with a potato masher in order to extract as much flavour as possible from the prawn heads. Leave to cool a bit.

Pour stock through a sieve, pushing down on the solids to get all the juices. Cook pasta according to packet directions in boiling salted water. In a frying pan heat the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil and cook the red capsicum, stirring, until softened. Add the prawn meat and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

When pasta is cooked, drain it then put it back in the pan with the capsicum and prawns and the prawn stock. Heat, stirring, until the stock has mostly evaporated. Add the chopped parsley and lemon zest and season to taste.

Serve pasta topped with the toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serves 4

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

These rice paper rolls make a refreshing aperitif or light dinner.  There’s no cooking involved making them the perfect choice for a hot summer’s evening when everyone is feeling lazy, even the cook.

The rolls can be made up to three hours ahead and kept in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, so they don’t dry out. Vary the ingredients according to what you have on hand.

100g vermicelli noodles
350g cooked prawns, cut in halves horizontally
½ cup each coarsely chopped coriander and Vietnamese or ordinary mint
1 Lebanese cucumber or half a telegraph cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 rice paper wrappers (approx)
Dipping Sauce:
1 clove garlic, peeled
30g palm sugar or brown sugar
4 Tbs lime or lemon juice
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
To garnish:
Vietnamese mint or ordinary mint

Place vermicelli in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Stand for 2-4 minutes or until tender, then drain well. Use scissors to roughly cut the vermicelli into shorter lengths then place them in a bowl with the prawns, mint, cucumber and spring onion. Season to taste.

For the dipping sauce, pound garlic and sugar to a paste in a mortar and pestle then mix in the remaining ingredients. If preferred, instead of making the dipping sauce serve the rolls with store bought Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Fill a bowl with hot water. Working with one rice wrapper at a time, submerge in water to soften for about 20 seconds, then place on a damp tea towel. Spoon some of the prawn filling down the centre, fold in the ends, then roll up tightly to form a cylinder. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with a damp tea towel. When you have made them all serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, up to 3 hours.

Serve 2 or 3 rolls per person, with the dipping sauce and mint.

Makes about 10 rolls

Note: rice paper wrappers are sold in most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

This lovely summery salad was in a supermarket recipe hand out. I’ve made a few changes as I always do. Perfect for the warmer weather when mangoes are in season.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup boiling water
About six cups mixed salad leaves
1 mango, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
300g cooked, peeled prawns (weight after peeling)
100g feta or fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts or pecans
1 Tbs honey
Dressing:
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place onion in a small bowl. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well then leave to macerate for half an hour or more. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange salad leaves in a large shallow bowl or four individual serving plates. Use small leaves or break larger ones into bite sized pieces. Top with the mango, capsicum, tomatoes, prawns, feta or goat’s cheese and the drained onions. Place walnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Add honey, stir to coat, then arrange over the salad. If you do this ahead and let them get cold they will stick to the pan, so you will need to turn the heat back on briefly to loosen them. Drizzle salad with some of the dressing.

Serves 4

Variation: use peaches or nectarines instead of mangoes.

Barbecued Baby Octopus

Whenever I serve baby octopus I think of my dearly departed Dad.

Kenf

His name was Kenneth but in the family he was always known as Kenf. For someone brought up on a very traditional British diet Kenf was quite adventurous when it came to eating. He loved Chinese food and spicy curries. In fact he pretty much ate anything you put in front of him.

My parents came over from the UK to visit us in Paris and I decided to serve baby octopus. As we finished our meal I glanced up and although he didn’t say anything I could tell that he wasn’t impressed.

“What do you think?” I enquired. “Well if you really want to know” he replied “I thought it was like eating Dunlop rubber”.

Maybe they were a bit chewy, but I didn’t think they were that bad! Since then I’ve found this recipe which isn’t chewy (thanks to the red wine) and I often wonder if it would have met with Kenf’s approval.

If you like things spicy you add a bit of finely chopped fresh chilli.

IMG_0156

1 kg baby octopus (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Olive oil

If using fresh octopus clean thoroughly, rinse and drain well. If using frozen octopus thaw, rinse and drain.

Place balsamic vinegar and wine in a saucepan with the octopus. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discard the wine and place octopus in a bowl with the soy, chilli sauce, tomato sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Heat BBQ to high and cook the octopus for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy on the edges. Serve on a bed of rocket or with steamed rice, garnished with coriander and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

Australia’s Oyster Coast

Australia’s Oyster Coast farmers operate across eight estuaries from the Shoalhaven River to Wonboyn Lake on the pristine south coast of New South Wales. A group of passionate artisans, they are committed to growing oysters of the highest quality in estuaries so well-managed they can be eaten straight out of the water.

Australia's Oyster Coast

Three different species, each with different characteristics influenced by the water in which they live, are being produced. Going from left-to-right in the photo, the Sydney Rock is a native oyster with a firm, creamy texture and incredible flavour. Highly prized by top restaurants, it can only be found along the South Eastern coastline of Australia. Next comes the Angasi, another native oyster which is rarer than its Sydney cousin and recognised by its flat shell and stronger flavour. The Pacific Oyster is significantly bigger than the other two. Introduced into Australia from Japan, it’s the mostly widely-consumed oyster in the world. Fast-growing and plump with a clean, salty flavour.

Australia’s Oyster Coast has partnered with a number of restaurants and wineries to sell their products in Australia. To place an order contact: sales@australiasoystercoast.com

They have also started exporting to a number of countries in Asia, including China, Hong Kong and Singapore and plan to expand to other countries in the region in the near future. They are also developing a domestic tourism trail along Australia’s Oyster Coast, with lease tours, restaurants, accommodation, sea planes and kayaks. This is still under development, but will take on greater importance once direct air flights between Canberra and Singapore commence.

Each of the three oysters requires a slightly different opening technique. You need a special knife and it’s also a big plus to have a family member who knows what they’re doing. Our son-in-law Sacha is our oyster expert. An Australian of Chilean origin Sacha has eaten more oysters than I’ve had hot dinners and says the only way to eat them is plain, or with a squeeze of lemon juice.

For those who like something a bit different I made this simple Asian sauce from Jamie Oliver.

Australia's Oyster Coast1 piece of peeled fresh ginger the size of a small walnut, grated
6 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbs finely chopped coriander
1 tsp sugar

Shake in a jar with a lid.

Lobster Mango and Avocado Salad

After caviar and truffles, lobster is near the top of the list of luxury food items which are expensive, so we don’t eat them very often.

I was in Costco recently looking for something special to serve over the holiday period. They had lobster tails for about $45/kg and as a friend had told me they were very good I bought four, which worked out at about $15 each. Peanuts compared with what you pay for lobster in a restaurant.

We ate the first two hot with chive butter, but concluded that the best way to enjoy lobster is cold with mayonnaise or seafood dressing. With top quality seafood simplicity is the answer, so with the second two I created this very simple salad which we ate as a main course. Mangoes are in season at the moment and the result was delicious.

Lobster Mango and Avocado Salad2 lobster tails, in shell, each weighing 250-300g
6 cups salad greens, washed and spun dry
3 Tbs salad dressing
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) de-seeded and thinly sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Seafood Dressing:
2 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
2 Tbs sour cream
1 Tbs tomato ketchup
Juice half a lemon or lime
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Thaw lobster tails if frozen then cook them in boiling salted water for 8-10 mins or until shells are red and flesh is white and opaque. Plunge into iced water and when cool drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Remove shells and slice flesh into medallions.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add red capsicum slices and a sprinkle of salt. Fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until soft and starting to char on the edges. Cool.

For Seafood Dressing, mix all ingredients together.

If using large lettuce leaves tear them into smaller pieces. In a bowl mix salad greens with salad dressing and arrange on two serving dishes. Divide mango and avocado between the two plates. Top with the lobster, spoon over some seafood dressing, then garnish with the spring onion and a few pieces of red capsicum. There will be capsicum left over for another use. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Notes: instead of using red capsicum, garnish salad with dry pink peppercorns or salmon caviar, available from specialty shops. Instead of lobster use large cooked and peeled prawns or crab meat.

Prawn Bisque

I’m what you might call an abstemious cook, thanks to Scottish genes from my paternal grandmother and waste not want not mentality from my mother, who spent the Second World War in Malta with strict rationing.

Throwing away food – unless it’s gone off – is something I can’t bear to do. A few tired looking vegies in the bottom of the fridge? In no time you can convert them into a delicious cream of vegetable soup. My kids tell me they’ve inherited this trait, so they must be strong genes.

On the shelves of a Bed and Breakfast in rural France I once found a very old hand-written recipe book. I copied out lots of recipes, including this delicious soup made entirely from prawn heads and tails. I had always hated throwing out juicy prawn heads and tails and since acquiring this recipe I don’t have to.

Next time you buy some big fat prawns – cooked or raw – save the heads and tails in a bag in the freezer and keep adding to them. I know there are rules about refreezing things, but if you use very fresh prawns and get them into the freezer ASAP you won’t have a problem. I’ve been doing it for years and I’m still here to tell the tale. If you prefer not to freeze them, you can always make the bisque straight away, but I never seem to have enough prawn heads when I have time to cook. The recipe isn’t all that time-consuming, but it’s not something I would do on a mid-week evening while trying to prepare dinner.

When you have enough in the bag and a quiet weekend make this scrumptious soup. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, or can be frozen for several months. Freeze it without the cream, then add the cream when you thaw and reheat it. Serve it as a soup or as a sauce for scallops, fish, prawns or prawn-filled wontons.

Once when we were living in Chile we had a power cut which lasted two days. The only thing Matthew was worried about was getting the Prawn Bisque across town and into the custody of a friend whose freezer was still working.

This is one of my top ten recipes of all times – just as good as a seafood bisque seved in a top French restaurant – so do try it.

Prawn Bisque2 kg prawn heads and tails
125g butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 onions, chopped
1 cup flour
2-3 carrots depending on size, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
750ml white wine
½ cup brandy
1 cup tomato paste
Water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
500ml cream
To serve:
Cream
Croutons (optional)
Chopped parsley

With a sharp knife or cleaver, cut prawn heads in two. Heat butter in a very large heavy-based saucepan, add prawn heads and tails and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic and continue to cook, stirring until softened. Add flour and stir for a minute or two until cooked. Add carrots, celery, wine, brandy, tomato paste, salt and pepper and enough water to cover everything.

Simmer covered for between one and one and a half hours, stirring often (especially the bottom so it doesn’t stick), pushing down with a potato masher to help remove all the flavour from the prawns and topping up the water level as it evaporates.

Strain soup through a sieve in batches, pressing down hard on solids then discarding them. To serve, reheat with cream. Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with a swirl of cream, croutons (if using – I didn’t in the photo) and chopped parsley.

Serves 12

Notes:

  • To make a hearty main course soup, serve in large bowls and add cubes of oven roasted pumpkin, whole cooked prawns, chopped parsley and croutons.
  • Before adding cream you can freeze this soup in one container. To serve, thaw, reheat with the cream and adjust seasoning.
  • You can also freeze it in several smaller plastic containers to use as a delicious sauce with home-made seafood ravioli, pan fried white fish or scallops.

Zucchini Spaghetti

Make healthy low-carb “spaghetti” from zucchini, carrots and other vegetables using a Zyliss Julienne Slicer/Peeler. This gadget is really easy to use as you can see from this you tube video. In Canberra you can buy them at the Essential Ingredient.

To serve as a vegetable, stir-fry quickly in a frying pan in a little oil or butter then add seasoning, herbs and maybe a dollop of sour cream. Or use the “spaghetti” in salads or to make this delicious stir fry with prawns.

Zucchini Spaghetti with Prawns

4-6 medium to DSCF0878large zucchini (courgettes)
⅓ cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes) or use some fresh chilli
Salt and freshly ground pepper
400g peeled green prawns, tails intact (weight after peeling)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
To serve:
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok on medium-high heat. Add garlic, chilli, salt and pepper and cook stirring for a minute. Add prawns and continue to cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until prawns turn pink and are nearly cooked. Add the “spaghetti” and continue to stir fry for a minute or until prawns are cooked and spaghetti is ” al dente ” Add parsley and serve drizzled with a little oil and garnished with a little extra chilli.

Serves 4

Seafood Coleslaw

I never travel without a small notebook in my bag, so I can make notes when I eat anything tasty or unusual. Dissection on the plate is usually enough to work out the main ingredients. This is my take on a delicious salad we ate at a café at Copenhagen airport last month. Light, healthy and summery, this recipe ticks all the boxes.

Seafood sticks or seafood extender as they are also known is something I rarely buy. I know they’re totally artificial – by which I mean they’re made from an inexpensive white fish and don’t contain any seafood –  but they work quite well in this recipe. If preferred use double the amount of chopped prawns. You can also substitute lobster (crayfish) or crab meat.

Seafood Coleslaw
About 6 cups finely shredded white cabbage
3 spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 large apple, cored, thinly sliced, then cut into fine julienne
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup flaked or slivered blanched almonds
150g seafood sticks (seafood extender)
350g large cooked prawns
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbs cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup pomegranate seeds (see note below)
Extra virgin olive oil

Place cabbage, spring onions and apple in a salad bowl. Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until very lightly toasted. Cool then add to the salad bowl.

Peel all the prawns, leaving the tail and head on four (just remove shell from body) to use as garnish and slicing the rest – not too small. Cut seafood sticks into julienne. Shake oil, vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, mustard and seasoning in a jar then add to salad and mix well. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Divide salad between four individual plates. Arrange one whole prawn on each serving and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds around. If liked drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Note: Fresh pomegranates are only in season for a very short time, so I used pomegranate seeds from Costco which I had frozen. I sprinkled them on when they were still frozen as they thaw very fast and I didn’t want them to go mushy. You could substitute dried cranberries, for that splash of red.