A prawn salad with Gnocchi

There are some old delicacies that just wouldn’t be the same without cream. Gnocchi is one of them. And the sauce that comes from belting down prawn stock with cream is just one of the most intense flavours of cooking. That’s the simple way, one-directional cooking, and by and large it’s fine. But now and then there’s a chance to work at the edges and lift a one-directional dish into something really special, startling even, while never getting complicated.

This recipe is for one of those times. The addition of a sharply flavoured dressing, some crunchy vegetables, a surprising colour, and some nutty crunch, will lift the simple into the superb.


the heads and tails from the prawns — When you clean the prawns, remove the ‘vein’ running through the back of the prawn. It won’t kill you if you miss a bit, but it’s best to get rid of as much as you can! Retain the shells.

a little white wine (forget it if you haven’t any handy)

all the aromatic vegetables you have around: carrots, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, ginger, herbs from the garden

1 litre of water

fish bones from a flat fish like John Dory or sole or the like ½ cup of cream


walnut oil, of the highest quality

a little mild vinegar, mixed with lemon juice


black pepper, freshly ground

3 prawns per person, shelled and cleaned — Retain the shells for a stock. Try to get fresh (green) prawns. If you must use frozen prawns, the frozen variety from South Australia is excellent.

pumpkin gnocchi (see page 34)

cashews for texture, and a lovely flavour combination with the ‘nutty’ cream

carrots, sliced into ‘matchsticks’

hijiki — dried seaweed strands — Marinate it in stock or water for a few hours. It provides a lovely black colour and a real taste of the sea.

as many asparagus spears as you think reasonable — If you can’t get asparagus, you can make a version of the dish using excellent beans or sugar peas.


Cook the shells of the prawns with the white wine, the aromatics, water and fish bones, and reduce slowly but heavily. It will take about an hour. Strain. There should be no more than half a litre of stock. Reduce by half and set aside to cool. Remove any scum which may rise to the surface. The colour of the final stock depends on the type of prawns.


Add the cream to a cup of stock and cook down until the cream has thickened and the flavour is just right. There should be no flavour of cream, but plenty of the prawn shells. Add salt and pepper.


Make the walnut dressing by whisking the walnut oil into the mix of vinegar and lemon juice. Add salt and black pepper to taste. As with any sauce, you must taste. You cook for your palate! It doesn’t matter if the dressing doesn’t emulsify. Just whisk it together before you assemble your salad.


Toss the prawns quickly in a hot pan, just to seal, then finish in a hot oven until just done (warm in the middle), no more than 2 minutes.


Cook the gnocchi in boiling water and toss with the cashews in the hot cream sauce. Use a slotted spoon to take the gnocchi etc., from the sauce. There should no more than a tiny pool of cream sauce on the plate; the idea is for the gnocchi to ‘take in’ the cream, and there is no need for more sauce around the gnocchi.


Cook the carrots and the hijiki quickly in boiling water. Cook the asparagus for several minutes until tender, but still giving firmly to the touch.


Arrange the gnocchi in the centre of the plate, with a few cashews. Put the prawns on top — if they are large, it might be a good idea to slice them in half. Toss the carrot and hijiki and asparagus with the walnut dressing and put on top of the prawns.

WINE: I’m not the greatest fan in the world of sauvignon blanc, but it’s just right here. Cloudy Bay and Moreton Estate from New Zealand, or Yarra Ridge and Katnook from Australia would go very well.