Prawn Salad with Creamy Dressing and Herbs

This light, refreshing salad, which serves two as a main course or four as a starter, is perfect as an evening meal in the warmer months. Make it when the corn is at its sweetest.

12-16 large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
1 Tbs oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh tarragon (or another fresh herb)
2 cobs of fresh corn
3 Tbs sour cream  (or plain yoghurt or coconut cream)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthwise then sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh mint
Finely chopped fresh chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Lightly season prawns on both sides with salt, pepper and finely chopped fresh tarragon. Heat oil in a small frying pan and fry prawns for 2-3 minutes each side. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Cook corn cobs in boiling water to cover for 7-10 minutes then drain and cool.  With a very sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs, leaving some joined together.

Mix sour cream with lemon juice. Add the cucumber, spring onions, most of the red onion, most of the herbs, most of the corn, chilli to taste and seasoning to taste. Arrange on serving plates, then arrange the prawns on top and garnish with the remaining red onion, corn kernels and herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Substitutions: use cooked, peeled prawns instead of raw ones

Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds

We planted two grapevines at the farm, one red and one white. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the varieites and now discover that the black grape is what’s known as a Champagne Grape.

This has nothing to do with Champagne – either the region or the beverage – it’s just the name. The fruit of the Champagne grape is small and round and looks more like a blueberry than a grape. It’s the variety which is dried to make currants, which aren’t really currants at all. Traditionally used in Christmas cakes and puddings, currants are also known as Black Corinthian Raisins or Zante raisins.

We’ve been eating these small sweet grapes fresh for dessert or breakfast, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also dried a few as you can see in the photo. Left on a tray in a sunny spot they were ready in a few days.

The last few Champagne grapes went into this recipe for scallops from a New Zealand website called Epicurious. Matthew declared it was Business Class food, which I think he meant as a compliment – something Neil Perry who plans the menus for QANTAS might approve of?

8 to 12 large scallops without roe (see note below), thawed if frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (or small seedless black grapes, halved)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
2 Tbs chopped parsley

Dry scallops thoroughly with paper towels then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the butter in a frying pan large enough to cook the scallops in one layer. Let the butter brown slightly then add the scallops and cook them for 2 minutes each side over moderately high heat, until nicely browned. Remove scallops to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down a bit then add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until soft. Champagne grapes are the size of blueberries so if yours are bigger cut them in half. Add grapes to the pan with the lemon juice and most of the almonds and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and any juices which have accumulated on the scallop plate, then divide among 2 plates (main course) or four plates (starter) and top with the scallops, the reserved nuts and parsley to garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Note: as a main course for 2 you will need 8-10 scallops and as a starter for 4 you will need 12.

Substitutions: use the white part of spring onions (scallions) instead of shallots; use dried currants, (reconstituted in some hot water for 30 minutes, then drained) instead of the grapes; use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Creamy Tuscan Prawns with Spinach

This quick prawn dish is delicious on its own or served with rice, pasta or crusty bread. I made half the recipe.

2 Tbs butter or olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 kg green prawns (About 500g peeled weight)
½ cup white wine (if preferred use some stock)
100g sun dried tomatoes
3-4 cups baby spinach leaves, or big leaves torn up
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 cup cream or coconut cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan, melt butter and fry garlic and onion until soft but not brown. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, until they turn pink. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat to reduce a bit. Add sun dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips, spinach, herbs and cream. Cook, stirring for 2-3 mins or until spinach has wilted and sauce has thickened a bit. Season to taste then serve topped with the grated cheese.

Serve with rice, pasta or crusty bread.

Serves 4

Variation: use cubes of chicken breast instead of the prawns.

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 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.