The only year I missed Christmas at home was in 1985, when we spent the day in Koh Samui in Thailand, eating crab curry, with the sound of waves gently lapping in the background. Bliss. So it’s only fitting that a Thai seafood dish pops onto my Christmas menu. I have been making this seafood salad for Christmas for around 15 years now. I gleaned the recipe from my well-thumbed copy of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion. It has lovely summer flavours and can be made a few hours ahead. The first time I made it, my sister-in-law drank the juice from the bowl, so the saucing is obviously the best part of the dish and I sometimes make extra, with Joanne in mind. The original recipe by Stephanie calls for 6 small calamari. Given that it’s almost impossible to source fresh calamari at Christmas time in Melbourne, especially small ones, I have substituted prawns and I can happily say, it’s still a great dish.
The quantity may be doubled or doubled again depending on your Christmas crowd. The recipe below made for a substantial lunch dish for two. If serving alongside other seafood, the amount below would be suitable for four. I am planning to quadruple the amount for the big day ahead, but will keep an eye on the balance of ingredeints as I go.
Thai Prawn Salad.
350 gr medium-sized green prawns
1 granny smith apple unpeeled (or any tart apple)
2 brown or purple shallots
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves
1 tablespoon fresh torn mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh torn Thai basil leaves
3 tablespoons chopped peanuts.
2 fresh chillies, seeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon palm sugar (soft brown sugar may be substituted)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice. ( lime is better)
Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together in a jug.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes or until nicely pink. Shell and devein the prawns. (you can do this before or after cooking. I prefer to cook them with the shell on) Halve the prawns vertically. Reserve.
Core the apple but don’t peel it. Julienne into fine sticks. Finely slice the shallots.
In a serving bowl, mix the apple, prawns, shallots, and herbs. Pour on the dressing and gently toss. Add peanuts to finished dish.
If making this dish ahead of time, leave out the herbs and peanuts until ready to serve. Dress the salad of prawns, apple and shallots, cover well, then refrigerate. Bring out around 15 minutes before serving time to take the chill off the dish, and add the torn herbs, toss and then the peanuts. Of course the peanuts are optional- purchased fried shallots would also add some final crunch.
Serve with a French Rosé wine. Salute!
Adapted from The Cook’s Companion, Stephanie Alexander, 1996 edition, page 689.