Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Prawn cocktails (with Mayonnaise and Soy-marinated roe) : the Prep Ahead Dinner Party : Entree edition

Time for another dinner party! This time, I was eyeing off that 18-hour pork belly, so after some careful choosing, today I present - the Prep Ahead Dinner.

It's kind of an all-Heston-all-the-time dinner. With bonus points for lots of straight forward make-ahead ease. If you were after the lowest effort Heston dinner party this list would have to be up there!

We had: (Heston dishes marked with a *)
  • Prawn cocktails*, with from scratch Mayonnaise* and Soy-marinated roe*
  • Braised pork belly with cracking*, pommes puree* (mk2), braised lettuce* and steamed carrots.
  • Coffee creme brulee*
Had I bothered with the glazed carrots like I was considering, it would have been my first entirely Heston three course meal. Ah well, close enough.

Today, we're talking entrée...

Prawn cocktails, garnished with soy-marinated roe.

Heston's love of prawn cocktails is well known. He talks about them all the time. From Heston Blumenthal at Home, "Confession time: prawn cocktails are my secret vice. When I get home late after working in the Fat Duck there's nothing I like better than to raid the fridge for prawn cocktail."

Conveniently, this recipe is also available reprinted here.

So.. there are a few components to this dish - most noteworthy is the mayonnaise, which Heston recommends making from scratch. The soy marinated roe is a garnish, and also a complete doddle, and so is done at the end.


True story, somewhat embarrassing story: This was only my second time making mayonnaise. The first time I made it, (many years ago) it looked fine, but tasted terrible. It scarred me, meaning I haven't braved making it again. Time to put on my big girl panties and get on with getting over it, huh? (Side note: You don't use strongly flavoured olive oil to make mayonnaise. Don't try it, as waste of time and good olive oil. Learn from my misfortune, padawan).

Mayonnaise is an emulsion. which means a thick liquid-meets-solid thing.

You get some egg yolks.
 Measure out the oil.
 Add some Dijon mustard to the egg yolks
 Mix them with a stick blender. Having a stick blender makes the making of mayonnaise, much much easier. Also helpful is a container of the beaker style persuasion. Or, as in my case a plastic container of excellent proportions that was cheap and a 1/10th price of the bamix one. And had a lid.
 Add oil in tiny amounts at first.
The a little bit more oil once it is thicker, blending with the stick blender until it is all incorporated each time.
Keep adding little bits of oil. Then, once your blender can't cope because wow, it's really, really thick and your stick blender is getting warm under hand and seems to be struggling...
Switch to a low tech, but convenient for the container butter knife. Keep adding the oil until it is all incorporated in the mayo. Be kind of impressed with yourself.
 Add in the vinegar, mixing it in to more like normal mayo consistently and kind of nicely gloopy.
Add a pinch of cayenne. If you are sensitive to chili, I'd make it a small pinch. Cayenne can be potent stuff. Add that salt now too.
Look! You made mayo! It doesn't suck! And only took maybe 20 minutes? I was impressed. (And a bit relieved).

Prawn cocktails

Really, this is kind of so straight forward as to be a non event. However, while I sat and shelled prawns I got to relive lots of lovely memories of my grandmother who, on special occasions would make prawn cocktails as an entrée when I was a kid. I love them, and her, so this was a nice bit of memory...
... to cut through the tedium of shelling a bunch of nice tiger prawns. I bought 600g, which gave about 340g of prawn meat - so if you wanted to hit the 400g from the recipe, get maybe 700g in the shell? They were beautiful prawns though.

Next, mix the tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and some cayenne pepper. Since I knew my guests were not super keen on chili-heat, I only added a pinch of cayenne, not the 1/4 teaspoon the recipe calls for - which is a lot to me.
 Mixed up... and done! Sauce is ready!
 Shred some washed lettuce finely, and your ready to serve later.

Soy marinated roe

Ah, to be suckered by a pretty picture - the downfall of many a Heston Blumenthal recipe-reader.
I wanted these...because they looked so pretty in the photo! I mean.. look at them there on top...

I did nearly back out though when I went to buy the salmon roe.. and the smallest jar - 50g - was $28. Gulp. But ... but... I caved. They cost more than the prawns. Sigh. The things I do for this hobby...

Three ingredients. Really. Take some mirin, warm it up, and burn off the alcohol. Realise you're pretty sure this one isn't alcoholic and feel a bit silly when it doesn't work. Oh well.
Add some cold water (same weight as the mirin) and some light soy (same again). Set it aside to cool. When you are nearly ready to serve, carefully rinse your roe. I found a fine mesh tea strainer perfect for this. Then pop it in for a few minutes to marinate. I found this was perfect as I assembled the cocktails and then they were ready.

Mix your prawns into the sauce. Scoop your lettuce into fancy bowls. Add some chopped avocado, the prawns in their sauce, and carefully add those beautiful little orange gems of caviar.

All done!

Things I learned from this recipe:

  • Not everything from the 70s was awful.
  • $30 is too much for a garnish. 
  • Even Heston has things he won't mess with. Traditional can sometime be the way to go.
  • Yep, I still love prawn cocktails.


Okay, yes, I know prawn cocktails are 70s and kitschy and looked down on. But you know what? They taste so good, I can live with all that. Making the mayonnaise did bring the quality of this dish up a lot. I loved them when I was 10, and I still do. Yum.

The soy marinated roe? It was nice and salty and pretty. But.. I doubt I'd bother with this again. It was dead easy to make though, so if you wanted something fancy to impress, or to go on those blinis Heston also mentions, by all means have at it!

Guest opinions:

These were very well received!  Despite there being a lot of "wow, I haven't had one of these in years..." there was a lot of very happy silence while everyone chowed down on them happily. Several guests even used their bread to make sure no sauce was left behind. (I great compliment in my book. If you like a sauce I made enough to use your bread to sop it all up, then I know its a job well done.)

Next time: Main course: and that 18 hour braised pork belly..


  1. This is an incredible post! Brilliant commentary and step-by-step attention to detail as always. And we absolutely love your dedication.

    We almost tried making this recipe ourselves, to turn the Perfection Steak and Chips and Heston Cheesecake recipes into a three-course extavaganza with this exact recipe as the starter.

    I'm actually glad we didn't. Your full & complete version of it makes it look easy as more work as the cheesecake, and definitely as much work as making the entire perfection steak.

    Kita you do not do things by halves, to put this much work into not just one element but a full three-course meal is hugely praiseworthy! Fantastic stuff! :)

  2. Awww, my mouth is really watering now. Those prawn cocktails look and sound fabulous!

    I used to absolutely love getting prawn cocktails in little stainless steel dishes from the kitchen staff at my granddad's restaurant when I was a kid. I'd forgotten all about those. Mmmm.

    Lovely post, you made me laugh out loud at feeling silly over the mirin. It's reassuring to know that even you sometimes feel silly in the kitchen. xxoo

    (Off to make a snack now. With avocado and shop-bought mayonnaise, as I lack prawns, roe and delicious freshly made mayo.)