{Day 20} Prawn cocktail, the post-modernist version

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Forget wilted lettuce, prawns and the bright orange 1000 island sauce from a jar. This is a post-modernist prawn cocktail that’s quirky, somewhat deconstructed and, above all, full of amazing flavours.

When I was brainstorming the various ideas for creative uses of the mould for the 30-day Royal Selangor Get Your Jelly On challenge, the classic that is a prawn cocktail made its way onto my list. My initial thoughts on this dish were to serve it in the mould itself just as I did with the citrus and rosemary cocktail so that its beauty could be truly appreciated.

However, as I was putting the ideas of my prawn cocktail together, Merowyn from Blithely Unaware happened to stop by the blog and leave a comment that inspired me to do something different! She is a quirky (happy to change the wording here Mez) Melbourne blogger who is soon to be married to her fiance, Hamish.  He is a chef and makes killer chicken wings! Anyway, she left a comment on my Fish balls in Chinese masterstock jelly saying that Hamish was actually making cucumber jelly for a dish at the restaurant and that’s when I decided to change my mind.

I won’t bore you with the theoretical context of the post-modernist philosophy that inspired this version, but I’ll say that deconstruction is one of its main characteristics and it is loads of fun when applied to food!

One short of making lettuce jelly, the prawn cocktail is made up of sweet cooked prawns mixed with a smidgen of dill mayonnaise, layered with spicy arrabbiata jelly cubes and a sliced cucumber salad that’s a little salty and just a bit sweet. The whole dish is then dusted with some sesame praline crumbs, mainly because I thought sesame would provide an interesting accent, and a more surprising combination when combined with the sweetness of caramel.

Have I gone crazy? Maybe. But there is no great genius without some touch of madness… And the dish? It tasted great!

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Makes 1 cone (cup)

Prawn cocktail, the post-modernist version

Start by making the jelly, it should set within 30 minutes or so, especially if your sauce has been standing at room temperature. The rest of the recipe can be put together in minutes, so don’t be discouraged by the long list of ingredients. For best results, line the mould with some baking paper.

For the prawn layers:

  • 12 large cooked prawns, peeled
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped dill

For the arrabbiata jelly:

  • 1/4 cup arrabbiatta pasta sauce (I used Barilla as it is all natural)
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1 tbsp boiling water

For the cucumber salad:

  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp salt flakes

To serve:

Line the jelly mould with some baking paper.

To make the arrabbiata jelly: mix gelatin with boiling water until dissolved. Place 1/4 cup of pasta sauce in a small, flat, rectangular container that the jelly will set in. Add dissolved gelatin and mix well. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To make the cucumber salad: using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler, slice the cucumber into paper-thin rounds. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to wilt and release the excess water from the cucumber.

To make the prawn layer: remove tails (and poop vein) from prawns. Chop finely. Add mayonnaise and dill and mix well.

To assemble: turn out the arrabiatta jelly onto a cutting board and slice into even squares. Spoon a tablespoon of prawn mixture into a paper-lined mould. Add a couple of arrabbiata squares, pressing into the sides so that they can remain visible after unmoulding. Flatten the layer and add cucumber slices, arranging them so that they overlap in two layers. Repeat the process with amother, bigger layer of prawn and arrabbiata suqares mix, finishing with cucumbers at the bace.

To serve: place a sesame snap into a small zip-lock bag. Smash with the back of a knife until it is mostly broken up. Turn out the prawn cocktail onto a plate. Peel away the paper. Sprinkle sesame crumbs over the cocktail and sere immediately.

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34 Responses to {Day 20} Prawn cocktail, the post-modernist version

  1. Wow! Amazing classic dish remake, I wish I had the patience to make it at home 🙂

  2. Anne S says:

    I love prawns and cucumber and spicy so this sounds perfect and what a creative way timbale this dish!

  3. Mez says:



    Thank you for the kind words!!!

    As soon as I saw the title of this in my blog reader thingy I thought ooOOooooo what’s she done!!!!! It sounds fantastic the Arrabbiata jelly cubes sound REALLY interesting,

    Great recipe and thank you once again.


  4. Eduard says:

    Looks great, fantastic combination of colours.

  5. mycookinghut says:

    This looks absolutely yummy! I love prawns!

  6. Oh look at the cucumber layer! Looks wonderful.

  7. Sharni says:

    Wow, I’m not sure how you managed to come up with that link to philosophy, but hey, the cocktail look gorgeous and the flavours sound amazing!

  8. B. Lee says:

    Another interesting creation. Would love to have this in summer.

  9. Mel says:

    Really simple but hard to come up with. Really like what you have been doing with the mould.

  10. Timothy R says:

    This sounds perfect for a weekend cocktail party. A very sophisticated version of a classic.

  11. Nic says:

    Wow! That’s creative!!! And the flavours are so delicious. I like that the mould is feautured in your posts without feeling forced.

  12. marty, you are incredible. i love the sound of this.

  13. How beautiful!! I’m really impressed by your creativity ever since I found your blog and I enjoy it so much. I am not very creative and sort of stay in comfort zone even in cooking, so this challenge and what you have been doing have been a great learning experience for me too! I even love how you put the placemats like that…!

  14. Wow, now that’s unusual. I love prawn cocktails. Well done!

  15. Tammy says:

    This looks so modern, fresh and juicy. What a great idea!

  16. TC says:

    arrabbiatta jelly? I’m surprised that it sets up. I don’t know why. I guess I just never thought about it before.

  17. You seriously amaze me with your creativity!

  18. Interesting post-modernist version. I usually look at your various concoctions and wish I could try but not today – allergic to prawns (can eat small amounts) and not a fan of dill:). You are two thirds of the way there. I wonder whether you will continue using a mould after the challenge has ended, or take a break. We will see

  19. Sissi says:

    I love all the prawn cocktails and salads (unless the sauce is awful) and always add some cucumbers and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Your deconstructed version is amazing in both looks and flavours’ combination (the arrabbiata jelly is an amazing touch!).

  20. I am so intrigued by the inclusion of a Sesame Snap – I remember chewing through these all through my school years! And this prawn cocktail is a thousand miles from the ultra-retro version served in the Anglicised Chinese restaurant I once worked in!

  21. Postmodern prawn cocktail. I love it!! You’ve reinvented this into something I actually want to eat. I’m a huge prawn lover but fear words like “cocktail” and “salad” as usually they’re code for “doused with mayonnaise” or “drenched in fluorescent mystery sauce.”

    Yours is fresh, light and real. Kudos!

  22. Anna W says:

    How did you think of the sesame praline crumbs?? Nice touch to finish the dish!

  23. jasmine1485 says:

    Wow! 🙂 I love prawns, but believe it or not have never actually had a prawn cocktail. If I was going to, this would definitely be my go-to.

  24. ooh i love those sesame snaps!

  25. Cheah says:

    This is indeed an innovation!

  26. This is the most stunning prawn cocktail ever. I don’t know HOW you come up with this stuff. You blow me away post after post!

  27. Wow..beautiful layering..look so tempting..Im drooling!

  28. Murdercakes says:

    Jelled pasta sauce? That sounds different. It’s worth a taste, though!

  29. Ming says:

    The way you layered the cucumber is pretty.

  30. nj greek says:

    i love shrimp…this is a creative way to display them 😉

  31. Sharn says:

    Post Modern Prawn Cocktail = Big success. Sounds delicious! Great presentation and again, so original 🙂

  32. Looking very yummy!! I want to take it.