As the “4th of July” approaches I experience a strong sense of nostalgia. For my American friends, it is something we will always cherish. America is a strange land of many different cultures but when 4th of July rolls around it’s a country that really creates a special bond around the regional foods it serves. Don’t always think of it as a land of “french fries”, there are a lot of hidden food gems amongst all those “melting pot” regions. Think big baskets of steam crabs, crab cakes, coleslaw, creamy potato salad, barbecued everything, Cherrystone clams on the half shell, soft shell crab sandwiches, lobster rolls, big fat hot dogs, the real deal “Buffalo” wings, baskets of corn bread and tons of delicious white corn so sweet you’ll never eat another Aussie corn again. And the peaches !!!
One of my favourite things is the watermelon rind relish from Joe Minotto, one of the great chefs at my restaurant, Blue Moon. It’s a classic! And very more-ish with it’s sweet and sour flavours. This relish can be served with many dishes but I love it against the crunch of a coconut beer battered prawn (shrimp).
From Santa Fe to Boston the foods of America shine in so many different fashions. I think it’s time you all celebrate with us, make a big pot of gumbo or better yet when watermelon comes back to us in Oz try this delicious recipe.
People have been bonding over food since the beginning of time so grab and apron, invite some friends and partake in one of the most ancient rituals in life, eating together. We do this everyday in our team building events and cooking classes. How lucky are we?
Coconut Beer Battered Prawns with Watermelon Rind Relish
12 green prawns
salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
1.5 cups vegetable oil
Coconut Beer Batter
½ cup dark beer
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 tbsp melted butter
¾ cup shredded coconut
Watermelon Rind Relish
rind of half a watermelon (no pink!), diced
10 juniper berries, crushed
6 bay leaves
3 tbsp ground black pepper
white wine vinegar (sufficient to submerge the rind)
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
- Peel and devein prawns, leaving the tails on but removing the heads.
- Put the ¼ cup of flour with some salt and pepper in a flat dish. Roll each prawn in the flour so the surface is finely coated. Shake off any excess. Set aside.
- To make the batter, separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks in a bowl and add 1 cup of flour. Add the beer and butter. Whisk until smooth. The batter should be thick enough to stick to the prawn. If it’s too liquid, add more flour; if too thick add more beer.
- In another bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff. Fold gently into the batter.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan till hot. The oil is ready when it bubbles quickly around the tip of a wooden spoon dipped into the oil.
- Take each prawn, hold by the tail and dredge through the batter until coated. Lay the prawn onto the coconut threads, sprinkle coconut over and press onto the prawn.
- Lightly slip the prawn into the hot oil. Fry for about 1-2 minutes on each side till nicely browned.
- Place cooked prawns on paper towels to drain. Serve hot, drizzled with Watermelon Rind Relish, with extra on the side for dipping.
Watermelon Rind Relish
- Add the ingredients except the vinegar in a saucepan. Then add enough vinegar sufficient to submerge the rind. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, and leave slowly bubbling. Cook for about an hour or so until most of the liquid evaporates and the relish becomes thick. You are looking to leave a bit of juice for drizzling. During the cooking, taste to see if you need to add more vinegar, water, sugar or spices to adjust the thickness or seasoning.
Serves 4 as an entree