Neil Perry’s Classic Prawn Cocktail

Serves: 4

I have plated this dish at least half a dozen times and it is always so well received.

Classic Saturday lunch sort of stuff.

Fresh prawns, iceberg and a wonderful cocktail sauce. Everything you would expect of Neil Perry in his style of cooking.

Of course, it’s nothing new and people have been doing this since the 70s. Though slightly deconstructed like this recipe is, it’s a great return of a classic dish.

Follow it up with a good steak over charcoal and oh man, that is a great Saturday indeed.

Ingredients

150gm iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed, finely shredded (about 1/4 of a whole lettuce)
2 lemon wedges, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
16 large cooked king prawns, peeled, tailed instant and intestinal tracts removed

140ml thick good-quality egg mayonnaise
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp finely grated fresh horseradish (I use horseradish cream)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Method

  1. For sauce, combine ingredients and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Divide lettuce among 4 plates, squeeze 2 lemon wedges over and drizzle with oil. Season to taste, top with prawns and serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Chin Chin’s Son-In-Law-Eggs

Serves: 4

I was a bit perplexed when Nat said that the people reading this blog wouldn’t really want to cook Son-In-Law-Eggs.

I think they are just beautiful. And they’re not complicated.

Perhaps it needs a broader Thai menu behind it? Perhaps deep-fried eggs comes across odd if you’re not in the know?

Because Son-In-Law-Eggs are just essential Royal Thai cooking and by that definition, have to be wonderful. All Royal Thai is! Especially given the Chin Chin twist.

Key is to boil as quickly as possible and then to cool as quickly as possible to keep them as runny as possible. Though don’t worry either way.

They are amazing either way.

Ingredients

Sweet Tamarind (Makes 2 cups) *

120gm palm sugar
1 c tamarind water
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs aromats (chilli, lime leaf, lemongrass scraps)

Chilli Jam (Makes about 1kg) **

10 red birds eye chillies
8 red banana chillies
2 red capsicums
6 red onions
1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only)
1 knob ginger
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup vegetable oil
250gm palm sugar
3 tbs tamarind water
1/2 cup fish sauce

Eggs

4 eggs at room temperature
Vegetable oil for frying
2 sprigs Thai basil, leaves picked
1 large red chilli, sliced

Method

  1. Mix 2 – 3 tbsp of the tamarind and 1 tbs of the chilli jame to make a sauce. Set aside.
  2. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Place eggs in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring the water to a rapid boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the boiling water and put them straight into the iced water to stop the cooking process. When they’ve cooled off, gently roll and tap each egg on a chopping board to break the shell then peel off the shell using your thumb. Gently does it.
  3. Heat a good quantity of oil – enough to deep fry – in a wok to medium (about 180c) and fry the eggs for 4 minutes or until crisp and golden. Drain on absorbent paper.
  4. To serve, arrange the eggs on a serving platter and bruise them gently so that the yolk just starts to ooze out. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish with basil leaves and chilli.

* You need far less than two cups unless you are operating a restaurant. Reduce accordingly.

** Ditto.

Lucas Hollweg’s Spinach Gnudi

Serves: 4 as a starter

Geez I wish I took a photo of this cracker of a starter plated by Nat as part of a long Italian lockdown lunch we felt we needed.

(We needed it.)

There is a little time in it, though it’s worth it.

Ricotta and parmesan, burnt butter and more parmesan?

Yes please!

Reminds me of a very similar dish I had at Otto Restaurant on Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Wharf with a cracking bottle of Italian white and the sun dancing on the water.

If only…

Ingredients

250gm ricotta (we used smooth)
Olive oil for frying
200gm baby leaf spinach
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50gm parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
250gm fine semolina for dusting
50gm butter to serve

Method

  1. Place the ricotta in a fine plastic sieve over a bowl and let it drain for a few hours.
  2. Heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the spinach and garlic. Stir over the heat until the leaves are completely wilted. Set aside to cool and then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can with your hands. Very finely chop and then squeeze again.
  3. Put spinach in a bowl with the ricotta and parmesan. Season, add the nutmeg and mix well. Taste and add more seasoning/nutmeg if needed.
  4. Spread half the semolina over a large plate or tray. Shape the the ricotta mixture into 16 – 20 balls, rolling them between damp hands. Place on the semolina and carefully roll until coated on all sides. Cover with the remaining semolina, then chill (don’t cover with anything else) overnight. This creates a semolina ‘skin’ that holds he gnudi together.
  5. To cook, bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and slightly brown/burn. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Drop the gnudi into the boiling water, turn down the heat and gently cook for 3 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, drain off the excess water then toss in the butter.
  7. Divide the gnudi among 4 bowls, drizzle the butter over and shave over plenty of parmesan to serve.

Gary Rhodes’ Puff Pastry Scrambled Eggs and Leeks with Ham Crème Fraîche

Serves: 4

Many years ago – like 25 – my mother and I would watch Gary Rhodes and his British cooking show.

Rhodes, Gary (crop).jpg
A wonderful guy, a brilliant chef.

He was not only an incredibly talented chef, though came across as a lovely, calm and collected guy.

Sadly, he died prematurely in 2019 though I remember the tributes at the time from people such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. One quote from the time from Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge described Rhodes as “one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage”.

My goodness.

All those years ago, my mother bought his two books and we cooked a number of his dishes. Just wonderful, wonderful French cooking.

Twently years later, I am telling Nat about Mr Rhodes and the wonderful books I used to cook from, long out of print of course.

Unbenowst to me, Nat tracks them down in a second hand book store (this is the sort of person Nat is!) and we are back in business.

Five weeks into lockdown in Sydney, Nat and I agreed we needed a break. Home schooling, work, renovating an apartment for sale, endless activities to entertain the kids, endless loops around the park to keep sane, we needed some time for ourselves.

So we took Wednesday off. I lit the outdoor firepit and put the Champagne on ice.

And served this decadent dish as the first course.

My lordy it is fine. Absolute dinner party material.

I said to Nat it reminded me of the food I ate in Chartres (France) many years back. Delicate, so tasty, so bloody good.

Update from my mother. This is me on the far right in Chartres. Haven’t changed a bit.

To say that we had the best afternoon since lockdown would be an understatement. And I can assure you that this starter (along with a cold Champagne) was a strong contributing reason for it!

Ingredients

225gm puff pastry
Flour for dusting
50gm butter plus two large knobs for cooking
5 eggs
1 large or 2 small leeks
3 or 4 thick slices of leg ham
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Champagne for serving!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Cut 2 10cm x 10cm squares of puff pastry and then cut them diagonally in half to make four triangles. Beat one of the eggs and use to brush the pastries, and bake in the over for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven and set the pastries to one side.
  3. Split the leeks in half lengthways, removing the outer layer. Finely slice the halves, washing off any grit in a colander. Leave the leek slices to drain.
  4. To make the ham crème fraîche, cut the ham into a 5mm dice and set aside. Heat the white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Once almost all evaporated, add the stock and simmer until reduced by a third. Whisk in the crème fraîch, followed by the measured butter. Season.
  5. Cut through the pastries, separated the risen lid from the base. Keep the pastry tops and bases warm.
  6. Melt a knob of butter in a large saucepan and once bubbling, add the leeks. Cook on a medium heat, stirring from time to time to ensure an even cooking, for 5 – 7 minutes, until very tender.
  7. Whilst the leeks are cooking, add the remaining eggs to the one used as an egg wash, beating with a fork to emulsify. In another saucepan, melt the remaining knob of butter and once bubbling, add the eggs. Season. As they cook, turn the eggs with a spoon reasonably vigorously, capturing every corner of the pan. When they have reached a very soft, scrambled consistency, remove the pan from the heat. This leaves you with just a minute to ‘build’ the rest of the dish while the scrambled egg thickens.
  8. Add the ham to the sauce, warming it through. Place the pastry bases on warm plates and spoon the cooked leeks loosely on top of each. Turn the scrambled eggs just once more, then spoon on top of the leeks and drizzle the ham crème fraîche around and over. Finish by placing the pastry lids on top.

Rick Stein’s Lightly Curried Crab Mayonnaise with Lamb’s Lettuce

Serves: 4

We’ve booked our first holiday since the the government announced we could travel within the state: Rick Stein’s Bannisters at Port Stephens.

And we’re excited for plenty of reasons.

It is out first holiday since February. And we love holidays.

It’s Bannisters. We have loved staying at the two Bannisters at Mollymook and based on recommendations from friends, Port Stephens is just excellent.

We’re leaving the kids in Sydney. Love ya kiddies, though don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

And finally… Rick Stein. Enough said.

Obviously, first thing we did after booking the room was to book the restaurant. Because you just can’t beat Rick Stein at his best: fresh seafood, simplicity, from Indian to French.

So, for lunch today we chose a Rick Stein theme and kicked off with this number.

I was a little suspicious because a quick scan of the ingredients tells you it is possibly a little too simple, though the incredible simplicity is the point.

As we ate it, we couldn’t stop talking about just how wonderful it was. How simple, how French.

You could do a whole lot worse than whipping this up as a quick Saturday lunch. Or as a starter to a longer weekend lunch.

Ingredients

3 – 4 truss tomatoes
5 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
500gm fresh white crabmeat
50gm lamb’s lettuce (I used Cos though much closer substitute is baby spinach)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh wholemeal bread, to serve

Method

  1. Skin the tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water for 20 seconds. As soon as the skins split, remove and cover with cold water to prevent further cooking. Peel off the skins, slice off the top and bottom and slice thinly.
  1. Put the mayonnaise in a bowl and stir in the curry powder, lemon juice and Tabasco. Fold this mixture lightly through the crab meat and season with a little salt.
  1. Overlap a few slices of tomato into the centre of 4 small plates and season them lightly with salt. Spoon some of the crab mayonnaise on top. Toss the lamb’s lettuce (or substitute) with the olive oil and a small pinch of salt and pile alongside.
  1. A crack of pepper and serve with some wholemeal bread.

Vodka-cured Gravlax Canapés

Yields: 10

Nat and I recently married.

That old thing…

We had a long lunch with our best friends and family. Six courses.

Six courses of incredible food in the tradition of both of us loving long lunches, great food and amazing wine.

The first course was named ‘Soup and Sandwich’.

The soup was the famous Banc Sweet Corn and Basil amuse bouche, served cold in a shot glass. We chose this soup because we have been making it as a starter for years and warm or cold, it is just wonderful.

Sandwiches mean even more to us and at one stage, we really were flirting with opening a gourmet sandwich shop.

We did this vodka-cured gravlax, served on a toasted baguette and it was awesome.

Here is the ‘Soup and Sandwich’ course as a test we did a few weeks before our long lunch; the baguette was a bit big and so we made it smaller for the main event:

As a starter to any dinner party, you could do a lot worse…

Everything can be prepped the night before and the salmon only takes a night to cure.

Slice the salmon, toast the baguette and serve:

People will think you’re a genius. (Especially if it the first of many courses!)

Ingredients

1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp finely ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vodka
300gm salmon fillet, skin on
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp baby capers, rinsed
2 tsp lemon juice
1 qtr preserved lemon, finely diced
Chopped chives
1 shallot, minced
Baguette
Olive oil spray

Method

  1. Remove the pin bones from the salmon and place it skin down on plastic wrap.
  2. Combine the salt, pepper, sugar and vodka, spread over the fish, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight, turning from time-to-time.
  3. Remove the skin from the salmon and slice very thinly.
  4. Combine sour cream, capers, lemon juice, preserved lemon, chives and shallots. Set aside.
  5. Heat oven to 180c. Thinly slice the baguette, spray with olive oil spray and toast until lightly golden. Allow to cool.
  6. Spread a small amount of the sour cream mixture on the baguette slices. Arrange salmon on the toasts, top with more. Of the sour cream mixture and a sliver of chives.

Delia Smith’s Asparagus with Quick Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Nat’s parents come over every few weeks for a meal (and several bottles of wine) and it is something I always look forward to.

I am always told by Nat’s mother – Deb – to keep it simple.

Which this easy little starter I served at our most recent meal, certainly is.

It is really elegant, super classic and foolproof if you pressed for time.

Which means more time for drinking champagne and catching up.

Ingredients

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 bunch rocket

Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
40gm unsalted butter, softened

Method

  1. For the Hollandaise Sauce, place the creme fraiche, cornflour, egg yolks, white wine vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, whisking gently for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk in the butter until combined, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Steam the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.
  4. Divide the asparagus and rocket among serving plates, then drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce and serve.

Turkish-style bread topped with lamb, spices and pine nuts

Serves: 4 – 6

This is really special, really easy street-food, perfect for a Saturday afternoon when friends come round.

The lamb mince can be prepared ahead of time meaning you only have the dough to do as people start walking through the door. Of course, when they see that you have made your own dough, they’ll know something clever is coming.

They’ll also think you’re a genius.

The taste – and the heat – is classic Middle Eastern.

And goes to show that the simplest things really can be the best.

Ingredients

175gm Greek feta, coarsely grated
250gm minced lamb
3 long red chillies, chilli and seeds coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed, dry-roasted and and finely ground in a mortar and pestle

Flatbreads

1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting

To serve

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Toasted pine nuts
Thinly sliced mint
Pickled long green chillies

Method

  1. For the flatbreads, dissolve the yeast in 300ml of lukewarm water.
  2. Combine flour and a large pinch of salt in an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and knead until a soft dough forms. Around 6 – 8 minutes.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 balls. Place balls on a floured tray, leaving 10cm between each and set aside for 1 hour to prove.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250c. Combine the lamb, chilli, garlic and cumin in a bowl. Roll out dough to 5mm-thick rounds on a lightly floured surface, then even top with the lamb mixture, leaving a small border. Transfer to oven trays lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and bake (in batches if necessary) until crisp at the edges but soft in the center. Around 15 minutes.
  5. Serve scattered with pine nuts, mint and pickled chillies at the side.

Prawn Börek

Makes: 8

Lordy.

These little numbers are absolutely incredible; like two-hat Middle Eastern incredible.

The egg, the melted cheeses, the prawns and especially the heat from the chilli. And then the nigella seeds.

I cannot overstate the importance of trying these at home as part of a bigger Middle Eastern feast.

You’ll smirk as you present them, comfortable that all remaining courses will be in your shadow with another family cook-off comfortably won by you.

Amazing.

(The original recipe from the wonderful Gourmet Traveller with only a few minor changes from me.)

Ingredients

6 large uncooked king prawns, peeled, deveined and finely chopped
100gm haloumi, finely grated
100gm Greek sheep’s feta, finely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp isot pepper*
2 egg yolks
8 filo pastry sheets
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Melted butter
1 tsp nigella seeds**

Method

  1. Combine prawns with cheeses, parsley and isot pepper, then fold through the egg yolks.
  2. Take a sheet of filo pastry, brush butter on one half lengthways and then fold the filo in half lengthways. Place 2 tbsp of filling at one end, then fold o corner of pastry over filling to form a triangle. Repeat folding from side-to-side in a triangle shape until there is one fold left. Brush with butter and make the last fold, pressing to seal the triangle. Trim any excess overhanging pastry.
  3. Repeat for the remaining pastries and refrigerate for 1 hour uncovered to dry.
  4. Heat oil in a large deep saucepan to 180c. Deep fry the börek in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through: 3 – 4 minutes.
  5. Drain on paper towels, spring with nigella seeds and serve.

* Substitute chilli flakes.
** Substitute cumin seeds.

The French Laundry’s Creamy Lobster Broth

Serves: 4

The French Laundry is one of America’s best and most well-known restaurants.

Driving through the Napa Valley and having lunch at The French Laundry is most definitely on my bucket list.

Thoma Keller, the man behind The French Laundry has another restaurant in New York called Perse and Nat and I agree that it was the finest dining experience either of us had ever had. 11/10.

Thomas Keller is a genius.

We have had The French Laundry cookbook for a number of years though we had only ever cooked one thing in it: Yabba Dabba Doo, an incredible standing rib with Pommes Anna and a Bordelaise Sauce.

Now we have done two… this classic broth which is to die for.

Rather than live lobsters, I purchased tails and set aside the meat for another dish. I then supplemented the lesser lobster shell with the prawn shells from 24 prawns.

It was sublime I know this is something we will do again for our next dinner party.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 lobster bodies, cut into quarters
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan and sear the lobster parts for a few minutes until they turn red.
  2. Add the tomatoes, carrots, tarragon and cover the lobster parts and vegetables with water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that float to the top.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  4. Strain the stock, pushing as much liquid through as possible. Strain the liquid again through a fine strainer and pour the liquid into a clean pan.
  5. Return the strained liquid to the heat and reduce slowly until there is one cup of liquid left. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until there is 2 cups left.
  6. Strain once more and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Slowly reheat and serve.