“What do you think you’re doing?” the shop attendant shot at me. I’d just helped myself to a bagful of loose cashew nuts from behind the counter of her spice shop in Kenilworth, and from the sour expression that covered her face you’d think I’d just stolen something.
I’m not one to saunter into retail establishments, go around the back and help myself to whatever I please. No, I dished up the seemingly illicit morsels because firstly, the shop attendant was busy, and secondly (and this could be significant), there was a sign on the wall that said ‘SELF SERVICE’.
I suddenly felt as if I was in an episode of some Leon Schuster-inspired prank show and that any minute his wily sidekick Alfred Ntombela would jump out from behind the piles of borrie and mother-in-law masala, point at me and cackle hysterically. ”Um, the sign… I, well, I just thought that…” I stammered, bewildered. ”That sign is old. And if you shopped here regularly, you’d know that.” came the stinging response. I was too mortified to offer any sort of rebuttal, so I hung my head and skulked out the door, sans cashews.
I had initially planned on including toasted cashew nuts to my prawn crunch salad, but since suffering the aforementioned bruta figura, cashew nuts dropped quickly off the list. Add them at your peril, darlings.
This is a recipe that finds its way into my kitchen each summer for it’s freshness, modern spirit & sheer simplicity. The dressing is so named because each person I’ve fed this to has fallen head over heels in love with it. I like how the Asian love sauce makes my lips tingle and my tongue boogie in it’s salty, sweet, sour and spicy elements. I usually make this salad just with mint leaves, but thought the peppery flavour of the rocket might just take things to the next level.
What you’ll need… Serves 4
24 LM prawns, shelled, except for 4 which should be butterflied with heads intact, veins removed
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
For the salad:
1/4 head Chinese cabbage, shredded (1/2 a green baby cabbage will work just fine, too)
1/2 head red baby cabbage, shredded
1 red pepper, deseeded & julienned
1 cup mange tout, ends trimmed
1 cup cucumber, peeled, deseeded & sliced diagonally
2 cups rocket leaves, washed & spun dry
For the Asian love sauce:
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 medium knob fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
5 small cloves garlic, smashed
½ cup coriander leaves & stems, washed & chopped finely
½ cup mint leaves, washed and chopped finely
2 small red serrano chillies (optional), seeded and sliced into very thin strips
4 limes, zested and juiced (lemons are fine too if limes aren’t available)
75ml sesame oil
75ml peanut or avocado oil
50ml fish sauce
50ml Asian plum sauce or runny honey
25ml soy sauce (Kikkoman, obviously)
Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat. Coat and toss the shelled & butterflied prawns in the sesame oil & fry quickly in the hot pan for a minute each side or until they have turned pink and start to brown slightly. Transfer the prawns from the pan to a bowl and pour over the sweet chilli sauce. Cover the prawns and set these aside.
Toss the salad ingredients together in a bowl and combine well. Place all the ingredients for the Asian love sauce together in a jug and stir well to incorporate all those gorgeous flavours. Taste the dressing, and adjust the seasoning slightly if it’s not quite balanced enough for your palate.
Dish the salad ingredients into 4 large bowls and place 5 shelled prawns around the salad. Finish off with a butterflied prawn and a tablespoon or so of the sultry love sauce. Serve with a lime or lemon wedge.
Who needs cashew nuts, anyway…