Luke Nguyen inspired Split King Prawns

A few years ago I was gifted Luke Nguyen’s France cookbook which has some great cross-cultural French and Vietnamese recipes in it.

My version of this recipe is easy and great for entertaining if you do the prep beforehand as it just requires quick shallow frying at the end,

Splitting and flattening the king prawns before marinating them allows the flavours of the marinade to be absorbed by the prawns.

The addition of fish sauce to the marinade brings out the “prawnness” in the prawns when they are cooked, and using butter as well as oil to fry them in makes them super tasty.

In my simpler version, I don’t have some of the “fancier” ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves and perilla leaves which are a bit harder to get hold of. I substitute parsley or coriander to garnish, and add lime juice at the end. I also don’t bother to make the suggested vietnamese dipping sauce which is made from more fish sauce and lime juice as the juices from the pan are great with the extra lime juice added at the end.

Hope you like it!

Prep time including marination: 50-60 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes

1 kg green/raw king prawns
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 lemongrass white part only finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2-3 red chillies chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Parsley or coriander to garnish


1. Remove heads and veins from prawns but leave shells on. Split prawns down their backs using a sharp knife but make sure you don’t cut all the way through. You want to butterfly them so they can be flattened in their shells.

2. Put prawns flat with shell side up in a dish or tray and place baking paper over them and weigh them down to flatten. Leave in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile make the marinade by crushing the lemongrass, garlic and chilli to a paste in a mortar and pestle or blender.

4. Combine paste with fish sauce and then coat both sides of the prawns in the mixture and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes. (The prawns might close up a bit again when you do this.)

5. Heat oil and butter in a non-stick pan and add prawns cut side down first to cook over high heat, for 1-2 minutes pressing them down with a spoon or spatula to flatten them. Turn over and “scorch” the shells.

6. Squeeze over lime juice, transfer to serving dish with pan juices, sprinkle with garnish and serve with a salad and bread to mop up the delicious juices.

Roasted Cabbage “Steaks” with cheese and onion topping

I had never thought of doing this before nor had I tried it anywhere but I can guarantee that roasted cabbage steaks is now going to be firmly on our regular menu at home.

Slice the cabbage into thickish slices, keeping the stalk intact to hold the steak together, cut a bit off the ends so the ends can lie flat.

This first time I basted the “steaks” with a mixture of garlic, chilli and olive oil and roasted them until crispy for half an hour or so at 200 degrees Celsius, then topped with grated cheddar and finely sliced onions and grilled the tops until the onion was cooked and cheese well melted.

Absolutely delicious and a great substitute for carbs with dinner.

I am already thinking about other basted and toppings for future versions.

Night Rooster Cocktails rule the roost!

Stopped by Night Rooster by Locavore in Ubud for spectacular and very creative cocktails featuring a mixture of top shelf and homemade liquors. The delicious concoctions showcase unique Indonesian/Balinese spices and display a level of innovation in cocktail recipes that I have not come across before.

Adrian had the Ashes cocktail which is almost a live performance rather than just a drink. My Née-Groni was very nice too, not involving any fire, but made with Tanqueray gin and a homemade vermouth.

If you are lucky enough to get a seat on the balcony, you can sip your drinks with a bird eye view of Jalan Dewisita. Night Rooster is upstairs from Golden Monkey on the corner of Jalan Gootama and Jalan Dewisita.

Great looking bar and small dishes menu as well but we didn’t try on this occasion as we were on our way to dinner. Great value for money at IR130,000 (AU$13) each!

Definitely a must visit bar on your next trip to Ubud!

Tasty Thai Fishcakes with Sweet Cucumber and Chilli Sauce

Having done my dash with ham and turkey over the last week of Christmas festivities, I thought I’d spice things up for New Year’s Eve with some tasty Thai fishcakes. We were heading to friends to watch the spectacular Sydney fireworks and I wanted to take some treats that can withstand being served at room temperature.

This recipe makes about 20 bite-sized Fishcakes or you can make larger cakes and serve them as an entree to a main meal.

These fishcakes are so easy to make and are delicious with homemade sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce. Making the sauce is worth it as it so much zinger and fresher than bottled sweet chilli sauce and takes no time at all.


Prep time including chilling mixture: 45 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes

500g firm boneless white or red fish fillets
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon store bought Thai red or green chilli paste
2 red chillies deseeded and diced finely
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves or Thai basil leaves very finely sliced
5-6 green beans very thinly sliced into rounds
Handful of coriander leaves finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass – chopped into quarters
1 tspoon sugar
1/2 tspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil for frying


Place fish fillets in microwave proof dish and just cover with water, add fish sauce and throw in the lemon grass stalks and a few kaffir lime or Thai basil leaves.

Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, then drain well, remove herbs and flake fish.

Add flaked fish to bowl of food processor with curry paste, chillies and blend into a paste.

Put fish mixture into a bowl and add sugar, salt, chillies, chopped lime leaves, green beans, coriander and mix well.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of the beaten egg and mix into fish until mixture binds together but is not too wet.

Place mixture in the fridge to dry out for half an hour or so.

Form mixture into small balls and press down to create little cakes. I find squeezing the excess moisture out of the mixture as you make the balls helps to bind the cakes together.

Heat oil on high until very hot and fry the cakes until golden brown. Do not turn the cakes over until the bottom side is well fried as this will help the cakes stay together.

Serve with Sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce

Sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 1 minute

1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cucumber finely diced
1 red chilli finely diced


Put sugar and water into pot and bring to a simmer for 1 minute, mixing until sugar dissolves.

Add cucumber and chilli to syrup and allow to steep while you fry Fishcakes.

Turkey and Pea Curry Puffs

We are now at the very end of the roast turkey leftovers (promise). Today we were heading to the beach for a picnic so I decided to use it all up by creating some curry puffs. The shredded roast turkey meat goes well with Indian spices and sweet peas and the curry puffs are perfect picnic food.

Prep time: 15minutes + 30 mins cooling Cooking time: 15 minutes
1.5 cups shredded roast turkey meat
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 tspoon chilli powder
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tspoon cumin seeds
Handful of curry leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup water
1 beaten egg yolk for brushing pastries
3 sheets puff pastry

Remove puff pastry from  freezer to thaw.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat and add cummin seeds and curry leaves until they splutter and are fragrant.

Add onions and cook until transparent, then add crushed garlic and mix through for a minute until heated.

Add cummin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and mix thoroughly through onion mixture, heating until fragrant but be careful not to burn.

Add turkey to pan and stir fry, then add 1/2 cup after and peas – simmer for 5-8 minutes until all the water has evaporated and peas are just cooked.


Cool mixture completely.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Cut pastry sheets into thirds lengthwise and horizontally to make 9 even squares.

Using a teaspoon, spoon small amounts of the turkey and pea mixture into one square at a time, fold over and use a cake fork to seal the edges creating a neat pattern across all edges. Repeat until all the mixture is used.


Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper, then place filled pastries evenly spaced apart. Brush with beaten egg yolk and place in Pre-heated oven.

Bake for 15 minutes or so until pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Allow to cool, or pack for picnic between layers of kitchen towel paper.


Divine food in the eternal city at Da Enzo

This was a true foodie experience. It was definitely worth waiting for about twenty minutes to be squeezed in to a table at Da Enzo in the Trastevere part of Rome. Went there on the basis of glowing reviews on a number of blogs, crossing the Tiber from where we staying near the Spanish Steps, queuing in the light rain on a nippy autumn day in Rome. We were absolutely rewarded for our efforts and I couldn’t recommend trying it out yourself when next in Rome.

The restaurant is tucked into a tiny “hole in the wall” down an atmospheric laneway, it was Friday lunchtime and the other restaurants around were pretty empty but Da Enzo was heaving with lots of locals and some savvy tourists. Its reputation for serving authentic, Roman cuisine (cucina Romano) in true Roman family style has grown and grown over the years.


After being shown to our table with rickety chairs and paper tablecloths by a member of the family, we pondered the menu and daily specials. Our neighbours to our right spoke English and told us they were regulars and “everything is delicious”. It was also great to see a menu in Rome that had items that were different from every other Trattoria in town. Driven by seasonality and freshness, with an emphasis on “biologica” – organic produce, today’s menu featured autumnal goodies such as artichokes, chicory and freshly caught “Soleil” (fish)..

We chose to sample the Carciofi ala Romano (artichokes Roman style), Burrata (Soft string cheese), Trippa ala Romano(tripe in tomato sauce and the Tiramasu which was calling for us from the display cabinet across the small room!

The artichoke was steamed and dressed with a zingy, minty olive oil and lemon juice concoction that brilliantly complimented its artichokeness. Tucked away in the middle of the artichoke globe was a little bit of mint leaf stuffing which added to the taste sensation. Who knew artichokes and fresh mint were such firm friends? Da Enzo and many Romans obviously do.

The fresh Burrata salad was a mean in itself with a huge pile of it served on a plate with the freshest cherry tomatoes tag at tasted lime tomato and fresh basil leaves. I have tasted Burrata on a number of occasions before but nothing to compare with this salty, sweet, stringy medley which was presented by Da Enzo. Along with the freshest bread and olive oil with herbs, the Burrata was almost a meal in itself.

However, I could not resist the Trippa Ala Romano, cooked to melt in the mouth tenderness in a delicious tomato sauce with pecorino, I think this dish would convince many people that offal is far from awful!

And for the encore, the Tiramisu was a celebration of fresh cream and rich, real chocolate with the biscuits subtly flavoured with liquer ….an absolute sweet treat to end a sensational meal.

So great finding this little gem of slow food, home cooking in Rome.