Classic crustacean cocktail

In a previous post, I wrote about the rather retro festive lunch we shared with my father a few days before last Christmas. The first course was a prawn cocktail, which is a long-established festive season tradition here in Australia. It was so delicious that I decided to turn our approximate-taste-and-modify method into a formal recipe and then wait for an opportunity to give it some test-and-tweak treatment.

Last Sunday, we prepared another three-course lunch, this time to share with two couples, of whom the wives had been close friends with Maggie through her school years. So, yes, we served prawn cocktail as the entree.

Now, when I say prawn, I am referring to the edible crustacean that is known as a shrimp in the United States, whereas we tend to apply the word shrimp to some small varieties of prawn; and small humans. (I could go on but I’ll leave it to you to go to Wikipedia if you want to know more.)

But I digress. Here is one of the prawns prepared by Maggie on Sunday. Each unpeeled prawn was about 20cm long and the meat was about 9-10cm long.

Prawn cocktail 1
As you might assume, the qualities of the prawn meat make or break this dish; no wonder-dressing will compensate for underwhelming prawns. For both Christmas and this occasion, we bought the same variety of prawn, caught in waters north-west of Adelaide, but not from the same fishmonger. The dish we served on Sunday was quite satisfactory but lacked the “wow” factor of its predecessor. We know where we will take our business nest time!


½ cup thickened cream
3-4 tsp tomato sauce (ketchup)
1½-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-1½ tsp lemon juice
generous pinch of salt
generous grind of black pepper
500g cooked prawns
fresh young cos lettuce


  1. To make the dressing, combine the cream, the lesser amounts of the two sauces, 1 tsp of juice and seasonings in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust for each of the tomato sauce, lemon juice and seasoning.
  2. Peel the prawns completely and cut each prawn into bite-size segments.
  3. Shred some lettuce finely – we use a bread knife – and distribute between four entrée bowls. Allow a generous half of a cup for each serving.
  4. Place the prawn segments on top of the lettuce, spoon over plenty of the sauce and serve.
  5. Accompany with Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll be the day’, or similar.

By the time we remembered to take this photo, I had already eaten some and the dressing had been dispersed.

Prawn cocktail

About rmgtravelsandfood

Maggie and I are both in our late 60s and live in Melbourne, Australia. This blog is devoted to our shared passions for travel and fine dining at home. As cooks, we are skilful and adventurous within a framework of mainly traditional ingredients and techniques, and we aim to prepare nutritious food that looks good and tastes delicious. Our evolving repertoire is influenced by both our travels and Melbourne's vibrant food culture. From 2008 to early 2020, our priority travel destinations were overseas, although we have always spent a bit of time each year exploring parts of Australia. Our first overseas journey together was to Italy in the northern autumn of 2008. We later travelled in France (2009), Spain (2011), Singapore and Cambodia (2012/13). Most of our international adventures from 2014 to 2020 are covered in this blog. We have now reached a time in our lives when the prospect of long flights to distant places are unappealing, so we will travel mainly within Australia or to countries that are close to home.
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