When you think of quintessential Aussie food, prawns are up there with lamb, beef and bush tucker! Our resident home cooking experts, Sammy & Bella, share their love of the great Australian Prawn.
So, with summer fast approaching you can be sure Aussies will be eating their fair share of prawns. In fact, over the Christmas period alone, we will consume over 40% of the entire years locally produced prawns. That’s a huge amount of prawns in very little time! My question is, what do we do with all those prawn shells? Hmmmm…we’ll get to that a little later!
Most of us have our favorite recipes such as garlic prawns, crumbed prawn cutlets and of course the good old poached prawn. Now, all these are great but they can get a little repetitive and we want a delicious prawn that has us coming back for seconds and thirds.
It comes down to tasty, mouth watering… variety! We often buy the same type of prawn because we don’t know what else is out there, or are too scared to try something a little different. So to help you out we’ve got a quick run down of popular prawn varieties.
Banana Prawns: These babies have a delicious light, sweet flavour that makes them great for hot dishes, especially because their flesh holds well when cooked. These are a great local choice, caught off Northern Australia and you can also purchase farmed Banana Prawns.
Tiger Prawns: Our personal favourite when poached. Perfect when served with lemon and enjoyed with an ocean breeze. Their majestic tiger stripes make for impressive presentation when entertaining. And most importantly, they are quite large. So, that means you get more flesh to eat to compensate for the work gone into peeling them.
King Prawns: King prawns are rich in flavor and have a moist flesh. They have great versatility for both hot and cold dishes. If there is one prawn that can do it all, it’s the King of all prawns!
School prawns: These kids are incredibly sweet and great cooked and eaten whole. Simply tossed in a seasoned flour and deep-fried they make a great party or sharing style snack.
Now we know what’s available on the porn mar… I mean prawn market! Sheesh! What should we make? Do we want something light and delicate? Hearty? Punchy? Lets explore some prawn cooking techniques.
Poaching: Most often we will buy our prawns already poached, but have you ever considered poaching your own? It’s simple, all you need is a pot, salt and a big bowl of iced water. Cook whole green prawns in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and then stop the cooking process by placing in the ice water bath. This will help retain their bright orange colour and stop them from over cooking.
Another technique is to poach pealed prawns in butter or olive oil. This is a great technique for garlic prawns, or you could even cook them low and slow to confit. When poaching with butter or oil you can add in aromats to flavor the prawns like garlic, herbs, and chilli. Don’t forget to have lots of bread on hand because you’ll want to mop up all those delicious juices.
BBQ: When cooking prawns on the BBQ it’s best to leave them in their shells as the intense direct heat can damage the flesh if not protected. Also, a lot of flavor is transferred from the shell to the flesh when you cook with it intact. My favorite tip is to slice through he back of the prawn with a serrated knife, remove the intestinal tract and the rub in a marinade of your choice. That way you get the best of your marinade and the flavor from the shell, and a perfectly clean prawn! What more could you want?
Stove top cooking: When cooking prawns in a pasta or with other seafood, like in a Spanish Paella, it’s important to add prawns in to cook at the very end. Prawns are great because they cook very fast and often cook perfectly with just the residual heat from a dish.
Deep frying: Deep frying can often be frowned upon as it’s seen as unhealthy. Personally we prefer to deep fry rather than shallow fry as less oil is absorbed this way and we choose extra light olive oil as a healthier choice.
We make a great little canapé that sees a plump Aussie prawn threaded onto a skewer, marinated in miso and crumbed with Japanese breadcrumbs and coconut. We serve it with a delicious pickled ginger and sesame mayo, which sends the crowd wild!
Don’t cook em’ at all!: We love quality Australian ingredients in their purest form, so if you can get your hands on some sashimi grade prawns you’re in for a treat. Serve them Japanese style with soy sauce and wasabi. Alternatively, give them a little more love and ceviche them. Ceviche the process of cooking with an acid such as lemon or lime juice.
Buying and preparing prawns
Buying: Australian prawns are available either uncooked, commonly know as ‘green’, or cooked. Cooked prawns are ready to eat fresh from the shop and green prawns can be cooked in many delicious ways like we’ve mentioned. When choosing prawns make sure their bodies are complete, they have a natural gloss (not slimy) and there’s no discoloration. And don’t for get to use your nose, fresh prawns should only smell like the ocean.
Easy to peel and prepare: A few steps is all it takes…
- Gently hold the base of the head, twist and remove.
- Wedge your three middle fingers under the shell along the base and pull away the shell and legs in one piece.
- Squeeze the tail and the prawn will pop out – or leave on the tail for presentation.
- Remove the vein by gently pulling it out from the head end or make a small slit along the back.
- Now onto all those left over shells! Reserve all the shells from your green prawns and make a delicious prawn stock to use as a sauce for pasta, or even a salad. Simply fry off your green shells in a little oil and press the heads with your wooden spoon to get the delicious juices out. Deglaze with a little white wine and stock, add in a little tomato puree and herbs and simmer for 10 minutes. The stock freezes really well too!