For the month of November we are rather chuffed to have Melbourne-based culinary and events whizz kids Sophie Cookes and Nicole de Bono of Cookes Food joining our Tasty Tuesday column! This year Sophie and Nicole have come up with a quintessentially Australian theme for their summer catering menu, they call it their ‘Australiana Christmas Bash!’. Each Tuesday this month Sophie will share a delicious meal from this inspired new menu, kicking things off today with a contemporary take on a good fashioned favourite – the prawn (or in this case, yabby) cocktail! – Lucy
Yabby Cocktail recipe by Cookes Food. Photo - Brooke Holm. Styling – Cookes Food / Lucy Feagins. Enamel plate and fork from The Establishment Studios, napkin by Bonnie and Neil, aluminium tumbler – stylists’s own.
The thing about yabbies is that they are really, really Australian. They are a fresh water crustacean comfortable lolling around the muddy waters of the Murray–Darling Basin and the like. They are readily available within their season and aside from the guy at the market that does yabby burgers on the second Sunday of the month, they are not all that common in our restaurants when you compare them to prawns or crays. I’m not sure if it’s because we consider them too ‘Australiana’, and therefore throw them into the same net as a cork hat and beer in a tin can, but I like them, and when cooked they come up a real beauty.
This is a recipe we came up with by tipping our hat to the terribly outdated seafood cocktail, while gently bastardising Damian Pignolet’s Marie Rose Sauce recipe. It doesn’t need to go in a champagne saucer or be served icy cold like a just-out-of-the-fridge aeroplane meal – it simply needs the best ingredients available.
For the yabby cocktail
4 fresh yabbies
1 iceberg lettuce
1 bunch of chervil (little leaves picked off)
2 sprigs of tarragon leaves (de-sprigged)
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 lemon cheeks
1 bottle of Sparkling white (obviously an Australian choice!)
Small handful of peppercorns
For the Marie Rose Sauce
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Dijon
2 egg yolks
190ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ small lemon
1 tsp bush tomato chutney
1 tbsp cognac
1 knife tip of cayenne pepper
1 sprig of tarragon leaves (de-sprigged)
Let’s begin with the Marie Rose sauce, because it’s something you could make the day before, saving you some time when you’re ready to dish up the cocktail.
In a Magimix, or for those of you channeling Julia Child, grab a whisk and a bowl, combine the garlic, Dijon, yolks, lemon juice, chutney, cognac, cayenne pepper and tarragon. Once these ingredients are combined, in a slow gentle stream add the olive oil, slowly mixing in between pours. When the ingredients have emulsified and are starting to look like a delicious rose-coloured sauce, give it a little seasoning with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Make sure you taste it, and add a little further seasoning if need be. Then pop it straight in the fridge where you can keep it for up to five days.
The best way to enjoy a yabby is to buy them ALIVE! Now let’s not get all sentimental about that because you’re more than comfortable buying them when they’re already dead. It’s better to end their lives humanely yourself. They will be moving around a lot when you buy them, so 30 or so minutes prior to you cooking them pop them in the fridge. This will make them very drowsy – until finally they will be asleep.
Sophie tackles the yabbies! Photo - Brooke Holm.
While they’re slumbering, place the champagne, the leek (cut in large batons) and the peppercorns in a pot and bring to a vigorous boil. Place the yabbies in, ensuring they are submerged before popping on a lid and setting a timer for seven minutes. Remove the yabbies and set aside. You could cool them if you wanted to use them later but if you’re ready to go leave them room temperature.
To serve, thinly slice or mandolin the washed iceberg lettuce. Place in a bowl with the carefully picked chervil, tarragon, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. This is a key step many miss but it’s essential to bringing all the flavours together.
Sophie de-sprigs the tarragon and assembles the salad. Photo - Brooke Holm.
Place salad in a bowl, plate or champagne saucer, pop the yabby meat on top and dress with about a tablespoon of the Marie Rose sauce.
Serve with the lemon cheeks.
For more foodie inspiration, we highly recommend checking out the Cookes Food event portfolio – these lovely ladies and their talented team create the tastiest morsels for their magical events in and around Melbourne!