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
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.