What's an Australian Christmas without prawns?

It is Australia's very own festive tradition - what would Christmas lunch be without a huge platter of king prawns to share? When I was young, they seemed so difficult to peel, while opposite me my dad flew through them, saying: ''The more you peel, the more you eat!'' I could give him a run for his money now.

After seeing the way prawns are farmed in Asia, I always look for Australian prawns. The wild prawn is still the most highly prized. Small school prawns can be coated in semolina, flash fried and served whole, head and all, with aioli.

Large king prawns taste amazing cooked with cider and garlic, or served cold in a prawn cocktail.

Farmed prawns from Crystal Bay in far north Queensland are also a fantastic product that come from very clean waters.

In Spain, prawns are often cooked and served in the shell, which retains a lot of their flavour. I think it is similar to cooking meat on the bone, which improves the moisture and taste of a dish. The prawns can be cooked on a grill, but for a true taste of summer, do them on the barbecue.

GRILLED CHERMOULA PRAWNS

2 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1.5 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 small red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped

2 lemons, juiced

100ml olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

16 large green prawns, peeled with head and tail intact

To make chermoula, put all ingredients except prawns in a food processor and process until smooth. Place prawns in a bowl with 3/4 of the chermoula and mix until they are well coated. Leave in the fridge overnight to marinate. When ready to serve, preheat a grill or barbecue and cook prawns for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with pipirrana salad. Store remaining chermoula in the fridge under a layer of oil for future use.

Serves 8

PIPIRRANA SALAD

2 lebanese cucumbers

3 tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 green capsicum, halved and seeded

1 white onion

125ml extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling

60ml sherry vinegar

Salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1/2 baguette, 2 days old

1 garlic clove

4 red witlof

4 white witlof

Partially peel the cucumbers, leaving a few streaks of green skin. Cut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Cut cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum and onion into half-centimetre dice. Place in a bowl with olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt. Mix. Preheat oven to 180C. Toast cumin seeds for 5 minutes. Grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to salad. Gently mix through and set to one side.

Finely slice baguette crossways into 2-millimetre slices to make about 24 croutons. Lay croutons flat on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 15 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Cut garlic in half and gently rub croutons with the cut face. Drizzle croutons with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Break apart a few pieces. Cut each witlof in half lengthways. Spread leaves open and place on a serving plate, spoon the pipirrana and dressing over and scatter the croutons over. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

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