As much as I love Christmas and the celebration of all the associated time-honoured traditions, it’s always such a busy, busy time of year. Coinciding with the end of the school year and the start of our long summer holidays; it also happens to be an incredibly social time of year. A whirlwind of catching up with family, old friends and new. Feasting, reminiscing and catching up on a year in review. Sometimes it seems there’s barely time to draw breath. Until December 26 when the cacophony of chaos suddenly subsides. Time to kick back, take a deep breath and finally relax.
This year we are rediscovering the nostalgic summer rituals of my childhood. Sun, sea and surf. Long lazy days spent on the beach, swimming, reading and relaxing. A huge departure from our long standing Boxing Day trek to Niseko’s winter wonderland of snow and ice. As much as my family adores their skiing, we haven’t had a proper summer holiday in years. It’s time to sit back and unwind. Enjoy a slower pace of life and hopefully plough through that ever growing stack of holiday reading sitting patiently on my bedside table.
Summer ritual number one. Crusty baguettes filled with freshly cooked prawns, crisp iceberg lettuce and lashings of home made mayonnaise. When I was young my family would decamp to the picturesque seaside town of Burrill Lake in January. Perched on the edge of a salt water estuary. There were oyster beds on the rocks and we spent the summer fishing for flathead and bream. Occasionally we tried our luck catching lobsters with lobster pots. With very mixed results. One of our favourite holiday activities, however, was to try to catch ourselves a feed of prawns.
The nets came out for prawns at night. But only under the cover of darkness of a new moon, and only when the tides ebbed out to the ocean, in summer months containing an “r”. According to the sage locals these were ideal conditions for the running of the prawns. Daylight was the enemy for the prawn. Laying low buried from predators, in the safe haven of the sandy flats of the lake, schools of prawns took advantage of the darkness of moonless nights to swim en masse through the channel out to the deeper waters of the sea.
And so it was on prawning nights the entire lake was illuminated with dancing firefly lights as whole families brandished nets and kerosene lanterns and tried their luck wading knee-deep for crustaceans on the sand flats and the channels.
Those were the carefree days before recreational fishing licenses were required from the NSW Department of Primary Industries. No special equipment needed. Most families made do with just three items. A lantern, a plastic bucket and a long handled net to scoop those running schools of prawns. For the squeamish amongst us a pair of old sand shoes may have been optional, but in my mind, mandatory to avoid treading on any lurking nasties with my bare feet while wading around that lake. I well remember the envy inspired in us all, the year my father invested in a pair of rubber waders. The bees knees in prawning paraphernalia.
Nothing tasted sweeter for breakfast in the morning than freshly cooked prawns served up in crusty bread rolls delivered to our door by the travelling bakery van. In memory of those languid summer holidays, here is a modern take on that humble and delicious prawn roll. In the spirit of slowing down this January and taking time out to relax and smell the roses, I’m introducing the concept of a Summer Edition for my blog. Posting a little less often and definitely more sporadically, refusing to be ruled by the vagaries of potentially unreliable holiday spot internet connections. Taking the road less travelled to find some new inspiration.
Fresh Prawn Baguettes with Shredded Lettuce and Aioli
2 crusty baguettes or French sticks
1/2 – 2/3 cup aioli (recipe follows)
1kg freshly cooked prawns, peeled (recipe follows)
1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded
lemon and freshly ground pepper, to serve
CUT each baguette into 6 even portions. Split open and spread the inside of each portion generously with aioli.
DIVIDE the shredded lettuce and peeled prawns among the baguettes.
SEASON with freshly squeezed lemon and cracked pepper.
For the Freshly Cooked Green Prawns
1kg green prawns
plenty of water
2 tablespoons sea salt
BRING 2 1/2 litres of water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
ADD whole, unpeeled green prawns to the pot.
ALLOW water to return to the boil, then continue cooking for a minute or so for small to medium prawns or 3 minutes for larger prawns. When ready the prawns will float to the surface, and be opaque and slightly pink in colour. Their flesh should shrink slightly from the shell.
REMOVE prawns from boiling water when cooked and place immediately in iced water to prevent overcooking.
DRAIN. Refrigerate in a covered container. Peel just before serving.
For the Aioli
Makes just over 1 cup.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, grated
sea salt and ground white pepper
1 cup (250ml) olive oil
PROCESS or blend the egg, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender until well combined.
WITH the motor running, pour the oil in very slowly in a thin stream and process until the mixture is thick and creamy.