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A very easy garlic prawn entree

Prawns plus garlic. The perfect combination. Add some fresh bread and you have a very easy garlic prawn entrée. The best thing about this starter is that it’s served ‘en papillote‘ or in the bag, which means that there’s a little bit of theatre when you bring the garlicky crustaceans to the table. Guests have to tear open their own individual parcels, releasing the wonderful cooking aromas, at the same time as revealing the pink, parsley flecked prawns inside.

Home made garlic butter is the best. A few cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh herbs, a grating of lemon zest and some soft butter, press the button and it’s done. Use it to smother over thickly sliced bread before toasting under the grill to make garlic bread. Stuff chicken breasts with it for delicious homemade chicken Kiev. Fry some sliced mushrooms in it and serve them on triangles of brioche. But make lots and freeze it so that you always have some on hand.

I think that a hankering for prawns is a sign that the weather is getting warmer. The days longer.  The sun lingering in the sky. Prawns are the kind of food that I like to take time to eat, whether around a table with friends or simply with a significant other and a bottle of wine. Leisurely peeling away the crisp shells and dipping the pink meat into piquant seafood sauce, in an al fresco setting. When buying prawns, look for ones with smooth black eyes, not ones with eyes that look like currants. This is a sign that they are fresh, or so I was told by a lady who sold me some of the sweetest, freshest prawns that I’ve ever eaten.

A very easy garlic prawn entrée

For 6.

  • 1-1.5kg prawns (which should be around 30-45 prawns depending on their size and how many you want to serve to each of your guests)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 250g soft butter
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • glass of white wine

Begin by making the garlic butter. Simply put the garlic, butter, parsley, zest and salt in a processor and whizz until everything is well combined.

Prepare the prawns by removing their heads and shells (you can keep these to make prawn stock) and then the vein that runs down their backs.

Tear off six pieces of baking paper about 40cm in length. Fold these pieces in half, just so you have an indication of where to put the prawns. Place 5-7 prawns per person on one half of each piece of baking paper and top with a generous amount of butter.

Now fold the baking paper over the prawns using the halfway line that you made as a guide and then starting from one end, seal the baking paper all the way around so that you have a parcel.

At this point, the parcels can be stored in the fridge until that are needed.

When you are ready to cook the prawns, unseal the parcels enough to be able to add about 2 tablespoons of white wine to each one. (Don’t try and do this ahead of time as the wine will leak out. I know. I tried and failed.) Reseal the bags really well, as the wine inside the bags will steam and cook the prawns. If there are any gaps, then the steam will escape.

Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180C.

Serve the prawns immediately in their little bags with fresh bread and a green salad. A very easy garlic prawn entrée.

You want to know what to do with the prawns heads and shells? Thai red curry with prawn stock and salmon.

Mozzarella salad with celery and walnuts

Buffalo mozzarella has to be one of my all time favourite things to eat. Fresh, clean, silky and light, sublime in the company of ripe tomatoes and basil leaves. The classic caprese salad (although there’s some clever variations on the caprese here). But what can you pair this beautiful cheese with to make a mozzarella salad in winter, when tomatoes are sad representations of their summer counterparts. Celery, walnuts, garlic and chilli. That’s what. And unlike the caprese, this mozzarella salad can be made ahead of time, which when entertaining can be a very useful thing.

Inviting friends around to share a meal is one of my favourite weekend activities. And recipes that can be prepared in advance are essential on such occasions, allowing for more time to relax and socialise, and less time in the kitchen. That’s why this mozzarella salad is so good. The cheese can bathe in its delicious marinade for a day or so before you plan to serve it, leisurly taking on the flavours of garlic and chilli. Likewise, the walnuts can be toasted and chopped and the celery sliced, hours beforehand, so all that needs to be done prior to sitting down to eat, is to simply assemble the salad.

I realise that cooking in this pre prepared way may not be in alignment with everyone’s personalities and that some people are more inclined to leave things until the last moment. Take my Scottish friend (she knows who she is) for example, who at university would stay up writing until 8am to meet a nine o’ clock assessment deadline. The very thought of this still makes me feel on edge. Last minute is just not something I’m good at. And although in the world of food there are a lot of things that need to be done at the last minute, like dressing delicate salad leaves and serving a soufflé, a great many tasks can be done early on.

Preparing food this way takes the stress out of cooking, yet still allows you to present a beautiful spread. It also leaves room for unforeseen events, like discovering you’ve forgotten to buy a crucial ingredient, that one of your guests hates cheese or that your toddler has just drawn all over the walls with a wax crayon that you missed when packing up her toys.


Mozzarella salad with celery and walnuts

Adapted from a recipe by Carol Field

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 20 grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • bunch chives, snipped
  • 200g walnut pieces, toasted and roughly chopped

Begin by placing the sliced garlic and chilli flakes in a small pan with the oil. Heat over a low heat for 10 minutes to allow the oil to take on the flavours of the garlic and chilli.

Cut the balls of mozzarella in half and then slice each half into 4-5 semi circle slices. Put the slices into container that will hold them and the garlic marinade.

When the oil is completely cool, pour it over the mozzarella slices along with the salt and pepper and delicately stir the cheese so that it’s completely coated with all the other ingredients. Leave in the fridge for the flavours to mingle for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight.

About 30 minutes before you want to assemble the mozzarella salad, remove the cheese from the fridge so that it can come to room temperature, then simply drain the mozzarella of its marinade and arrange it on a platter. Scatter first the celery, then chives and then the walnuts over the top and tuck in.

Like preparing things ahead of time? Then you might like this kale salad

A no fuss, make ahead kale salad.

It was only ten o’clock, in the morning that is, but I needed to prepare dinner just so that I could have peace of mind that it was done. Knowing that it would still be in a perfectly edible condition by the time that dinner came around, I made a kale salad. You see my Father in law, or Pa as he is now titled, was coming over and I was in no fit state to cook. Not that he would’ve minded, but I would have felt like I was letting him and myself down if I didn’t prepare something. Thea, and so in turn I, had been awake most of the previous night. Well, more like previous nights. I was getting the feeling that it was time for her to make the move from her moses basket in our room to her big girl’s bed in hers. Originally she was always going to go straight into a cot in her own room to sleep. That was until she arrived early and my instinct to keep her close told me otherwise. Now that same instinct was telling me she was ready to sleep alone and that in time, we would all have a more peaceful night’s rest. With lack of sleep I believe comes the need to eat well, so a kale salad with sausages and garlic bread seemed like a good, as well as easy, idea.

The kale was already in the fridge, bought at the Beaches market on Friday. Heading to the markets early in the morning is a weekly activity that I love to share with Thea. As we weave around the stalls together, strangers lavish her with attention and she offers countless smiles in return. We have been buying regular bunches of kale lately, It keeps so well in the fridge and I am continuing to find new ways to incorporate this nutritious leafy green into my week night dinner repertoire. Blanched in place of basil in pesto, along with spring onions and shredded pork in fried rice, combined with a bechemel sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan to make a gratin and shredded and eaten raw in a salad. The best thing about kale in a salad is that, even dressed, it doesn’t wilt, so preparing this dish during Thea’s morning nap did not affect its quality and it happily remained assembled until we dug into it at dinner that night. I must mention that it is better at room temperature though.

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To complete the meal in an effortless but satisfying way, and because I know that Pa likes it, I made some garlic bread. I had some sourdough left over from the weekend that was now a little dry, but still perfect for toasting. In a pestel and mortar I pounded together a few cloves of garlic and a handful of parsley leaves with a pinch of sea salt. When a paste had formed I mixed in a generous amount of soft butter. I spread the resulting verdant butter onto thick slices of hot toast and then popped the toast back under the grill for a few more minutes. While Pa cooked sausages on the barbecue, I removed the cling wrap from the kale salad and laid the table. Dinner was served. As we ate, Thea slept peacefully in her big girl’s bed, in her own room, for the first night.

Kale Salad

Adapted from a recipe by Marin Mama Cooks

  • 1 bunch of kale, leaves stripped from tough stems and washed
  • 300g Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of coarsely grated pecorino
  • Handful of almonds
  • 1 tbs butter

Dressing

  • 1 small red onion, very finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic grated on a microplane
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard

To make the dressing shake all the ingredients together in a jam jar and then leave to sit while you make the salad. the reason that I do this is so that the onion softens.

Finely shred the kale and Brussels sprouts. While you are doing this, cook the almonds in butter over a low heat until slightly coloured, then coarsely chop. Add the almonds to the shredded green leaves along with the Pecorino and dressing.

When you add the dressing to the kale salad, make sure that you really scrunch it in with you hands so that all the leaves are well coated. Enjoy x

NB. I added apple to the salad in the above photo because we were having pork sausages.