Prawn cocktail

prawn cocktail

I’m not cooking Christmas dinner this year, but if I was, this would be the starter.

It has always been tradition in our family to have something fishy to start the Christmas meal (I was simply horrified when I had Christmas dinner at my in-law’s and they served up tinned beef consomme with packet croutons – we took over the cooking after that). You may think prawn cocktail dull and old fashioned – at times I’ve thought the same – but I’ve tried alternatives and still come back to this because it’s just so damned delicious.

And this Rick Stein recipe for the Marie Rose sauce is the best one I’ve found. The secret ingredient is brandy.

I love prawns but my son is so obsessed with them that he even tried to persuade me to make prawn curry when his friend came for tea. “Mummy, J’s never had prawn curry and he really wants to try it”. Nice try Eddie – I went for Spaghetti Bolognese – but to appease him we made prawn cocktail for Saturday night’s tea and he enjoyed helping to make it (see photo below).

PS. In case you’re interested here’s a recap of some of the Christmas recipes on this blog. I made my first batch of mince pies this week and am feeling quite Christmassy (I’m currently burning cinnamon scented candles and playing the Pogues).

Christmas pudding
Christmas biscuits
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Bread sauce

Best ever prawn cocktail sauce

(from Rick Stein’s seafood lovers’ guide)

  • 8 tablespoons of mayonnaise (shop bought is fine or you can make your own)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 4-6 shakes of tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac or brandy  (cheap cooking brandy is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mix up all the ingredients above and add some good quality prawns. I like little ones the best as they tend to have more flavour than larger king prawns.

Serve over thinly sliced ice berg lettuce and cucumber.

Don’t forget the retro paprika sprinkling.

prawn cocktail sauce and Eddie

Prawn lover.



Nasi goreng

nasi goreng

I have two distinct memories of Malaysia. The first is of a group of locals rolling about with laughter at Ben (my now husband) literally melting in the heat as we crossed the border. They had never seen such a sweaty man and it was very funny. The other is of eating Nasi goreng at the train station in Kuala Lumpur. It was just a cheap canteen type place but it was delicious – then again anything served with an egg on top usually is.

Nasi goreng basically means ‘fried rice’ and with such a generic title it’s no wonder that there are seemingly infinite recipes for it on the internet. Some are very complicated and involve lots of specialty ingredients (if you don’t believe me see Rick Stein’s recipe on the BBC food website which was enough to send me into a mild panic).

This version is adapted from one in my ‘Essential Asian Cookbook’. It is fairly simple but has the characteristic sweet and salty flavour which makes it taste fairly authentic.

Nasi goreng

  • About 225g of prawns (raw or cooked)
  • Cooked and cooled rice (half a pint raw weight, see my post Nice Rice)
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons of kecap manis (they sell this in the ingredients section of Tesco now, it’s basically a very sweet soy sauce and if you can’t get hold of it just use an additional tablespoon of soy mixed with ½ tablespoon of sugar instead)
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Some groundnut oil

Spice paste

  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar

Omelette garnish (to serve)

  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ a cucumber finely sliced length ways (to serve)

First make the omelette garnish. Beat the eggs until foamy and add a pinch of salt. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Put half the egg mixture in the pan and swirl around until you have a very thin layer of egg. When set (about 1 minute) flip over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture. Roll both omelettes up tightly and cut into fine strips. Set aside.

Put all the ingredients for the spice paste into a food processor or pestle and mortar and grind or pound until you have a fine paste.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok until smoking. Add the spice paste and cook for a minute, then add the prawns and stir fry until warmed or cooked through (this will depend on whether you are using cooked or raw prawns).

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and then tip in the rice and cook until it’s heated through, stirring regularly to break up any lumps.

Then add the soy sauce, kecap manis and spring onions and stir fry for another minute.

Serve with the sliced cucumber and thinly sliced omelette.

Note: If you like you could use finely sliced chicken breast or rump steak instead of prawns. You could also substitute the omelette strips for a fried egg. Crispy fried onions as a garnish are also nice if you can be bothered.

Super quick prawn curry

prawn curry 2
When we go for a curry my favourite dish is prawn puri and (being very stuck in my ways) this is what I always order. As a special treat my husband recreated the dish for me at home, cobbling together several recipes he found on the internet. He did such a great job that I kept the recipes and whilst I don’t bother with the puris (deep frying them is a bit of a faff) I love the prawn curry filling so much that I’m happy to have it with just rice.

This is super quick and ideal for a mid-week dinner when you don’t have much time. You can make it in less than 15 minutes – which is the time it takes to cook the rice. If you keep a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer then it makes a great standby.

Prawn curry

Serves 2

  • About 15 large prawns (cooked or raw), if you’re using frozen prawns then defrost them first
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee, or oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like it, or you can use fresh chillies
  • ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of malt vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of single cream
  • A tablespoon of chopped coriander (or thereabouts)

First dust the prawns in turmeric and set aside.

Fry the onions in ghee or oil over a medium heat until softened and golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the crushed garlic, ginger, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin and chilli and fry for one minute.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly (if it thickens too much then you just need to add a little water). Add a good pinch of salt at this stage.

Stir in the prawns, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the prawns are cooked through. This will only be a couple of minutes if you are using cooked prawns and a little longer 3-4 minutes if you’re using raw ones.

Finally, add the malt vinegar and cream and stir.

Serve with rice and garnished with fresh coriander.

NOTE: If you need a recipe for cooking rice see my previous post ‘Nice Rice’ and follow the instructions for cooking rice to accompany Indian food.