Retro: Prawn Cocktail
Interesting to see a photo of a stylish Prawn Cocktail in my 1984 edition of Larousse Gastronomique, although the accompanying recipe refers to 'Prawn (Shrimp) Salad'. Per the recipe, you simply 'season some peeled (shelled) shrimps or prawns with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. Arrange them in a dish or salad bowl garnished with quarters of hard-boiled (hard-cooked) eggs and lettuce hearts'.
Michael Symons refers to the prawn cocktail in his One Continuous Picnic, asking whether it is just one of the many iconic Australian foods. However, according to an article on the Australian Gourmet Traveller web site, the history of the prawn cocktail can be traced back to the United States in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, when 'shellfish served in a spicy sauce, often oysters, less frequently shrimp, was a popular appetiser'.
Prawn cocktail is definitely a retro dish and it certainly hasn't left my repertoire. I loved prawn cocktails back in the 1970s when I first began preparing them, and still do. Prawns and salad suit the Australian climate perfectly and I can't imagine a Christmas Day table without a large platter of cooked prawns, an accompanying dressing and finger bowls! Though we need to be aware that there have been reports of prawn shortages this season, so we can expect to pay more for prawns at Christmas this year. For detailed information about prawns, see the Sydney Fish Market FISHline.
Tell me, do you love a good prawn or shrimp salad or cocktail. What is your favourite way of preparing the dressing?
500g cooked prawns, peeled, deveined, tails left on
baby cos lettuce leaves
lemon slices to serve
140ml good whole egg mayonnaise* make your own, it's dead easy!
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
several drops chilli oil, to taste
a pinch dried chilli flakes
a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside to chill. When you are ready to assemble the cocktails, chill some attractive glasses, such as martini glasses. Arrange the lettuce leaves in the glass, decorate with the prawns and add a dollop of the dressing. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serves two as a main meal, or four as an entree. NB: you can shred the lettuce leaves if you wish for a real retro touch. Pile the shredded leaves in the base of the glass and top with the prawns and dressing.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.