My Dad's Prawn Cocktail - a blast from the past

Read our memories of classic 1970s dishes and try our recipe for prawn cocktail that will never go our of fashion.

Remember when there was no such thing as a crumb, a chocolate sphere, a miso broth or fish floss (don’t ask!)? When, if you had liquid nitrogen, a blow torch and a miniature smoking machine in your kitchen you’d be considered armed and dangerous?

I do, and I have to say I look back fondly on the food I grew up with. Food was still a celebration and had influences from all over the world, but the reality was that a Crock Pot was the height of new fangledness.

Having said that, I grew up in a world of incredible food and with some absolute showstoppers. Caviar and Smoked Salmon Chessboard anyone? A Whole Poached Salmon with olives for eyes and wafer thin cucumber scales swimming in its own sea of curly parsley? For desert, Robert Carrier’s featherlight Lemon Cheesecake with tumbled shavings of plain chocolate.

I’m never sure if any other families had the pleasure of Tuna Roll – let me know if you did. Although sounding sublimely like sushi, this monster was about as far away from those delicate Japanese morsels as you can get. A sizeable log of chilled tuna mayonnaise wrapped in a layer of chopped hard boiled egg and then nestled inside a seasoned coat of cold mashed potato all rolled up like an arctic roll. Sounds terrible? You’re wrong – it was delicious and a slice of Tuna Roll was just the thing on a picnic in the 1970s and early '80s.

My happiest memory was of my dad’s Prawn Cocktail. Taken away from the obvious by the inclusion of a gentle hit of pink grapefruit and avocado. My whole family still make this treat - try it and you’ll see why we do.

Dad’s Prawn Cocktail

75g good quality natural yoghurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1tsp salad cream (another throwback, but essential for sweetness)
½ tsp tomato ketchup (more if you want your sauce pinker)
6-7 drops Tabasco
Salt and pepper
1 pink grapefruit (don’t use a normal grapefruit, it will be too sour)
1 large perfectly ripe avocado
1 packet cooked tiger prawns (about 140g)
Prep time 15 mins.

  1. With a knife, top and tail your pink grapefruit and slice off the skin in a downward movement, make sure you remove as much pith as possible at the same time. Fillet out the grapefruit segments from the membrane. Halve the grapefruit pieces. This is quite a messy business and best done over a bowl but keep the juice as you will use it to flavour your sauce.
  2. Cut your avocado in half and hold the half with the stone in it firmly in one hand; remove the stone by chopping down into it with a knife. Be brave – you need the knife to be part buried in the stone. Although this feels dangerous, it’s one of the safest way of removing the stone plus it looks impressive. You can flick the stone out with a sideways movement of the knife. Halve the avocado again and peel off the skin. Cut the quartered avocado into pieces (not too small).
  3. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined, add your grapefruit juice to flavour. Season to taste. Experiment with quantities, up the heat or sweetness levels until it hits just the right note for you.
  4. Mix the prawns with the sauce and gently add in the avocado and grapefruit pieces.
  5. Serve in individual bowls with gem lettuce leaves. Delicious.

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