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Bob Hart’s Recipe for Barbecued Prawn Cocktails

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs
Article image for Bob Hart’s Recipe for Barbecued Prawn Cocktails


For longer than some of us would care to remember, the dreaded prawn cocktail
was the go-to entrée throughout the land. Heaven help us!

The prawns were generally boiled, and had been frozen. If you were in luck, this
had happened before they had been peeled.

A glump of them were then buried in a cocktail sauce composed of mayo and
ketchup – if you were lucky. Shredded lettuce was often involved, and slices of
lemon if you were feeling super posh.

There is, however, another way. Prawn cocktails, thanks to the huge improvement
in green (raw) prawn supplies, are, once again, a champion entrée.

Just try this:
For two people, you will need a dozen large, green (uncooked) tiger prawns, or
similar. If they are frozen, thaw them gently. Then, leaving both the heads and
shells in place, split each down the middle of the back of the shell, starting at the
base of the head, and cutting just far enough into the prawn’s body to allow you to
lever out the poop tube, and discard.

Rinse the cleaned prawns well, and dry them. Marinate them for an hour or two in
the zest of a couple of unwaxed (or well washed) limes, a couple of pressed garlic
cloves, a finely chopped birds-eye chilli, about 2cm of peeled, fresh ginger also put
through a garlic press, 2tbs of fish sauce and the same volume of EV olive oil. Mix
well in a large bowl, add the prawns and refrigerate.

Now create your own cocktail sauce: to 150mls of Best Foods, Kewpie (or similar)
mayo, add 1tbs Sriracha tomato ketchup (widely available, but make your own by
adding Sriracha to your favourite ketchup if you can't find it), 1tsp fresh
horseradish (or bottled if fresh is not available, but not horseradish sauce) and a
casual sprinkle of cayenne.

Fire up a barbecue grill to 200C or a touch higher – ideally over solid fuel with a
hint of hickory or pecan, but gas will get the job done provided the grill bars are
hot, clean and oiled, and the BBQ covered. Lift the prawns out of the marinade,
place them, at 45 degrees to the bars, on the grill and drop the lid. After 3 minutes,
lift the lid and flip them, drop the lid and after 2 or 3 more minutes, lift them off
the grill and rest them.

When they have cooled sufficiently for you to handle, remove the heads and shells,
but leave the tails. Position six on each of two plates beside half an iceberg lettuce
which you have scooped out sufficiently for it to accommodate a generous portion
of the sauce, and then squeeze over some of the juice from the two limes you
zested for the marinade, over the prawns.

And if you are cooking for the boss, by all means sprinkle with a little extra
cayenne, but remember: even in his company, pick those prawns up by the tails,
dip them greedily into the sauce and eat them, as noisily as you like, in your
bloody fingers.

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs