Summer seafood: Australian prawns
Prawns really are synonymous with an Australian summer. In fact, around 40 percent of all prawn consumption occurs over the Christmas period. At the Sydney Fish Market alone, more than 130 tonnes of Australian prawns are traded during the market’s 36-hour seafood marathon, which begins at 5am on December 23 and ends at 5pm on Christmas Eve.
But while prawns are perfect on a hot summer’s day, catching them means working through the night. Prawn fishers work with nature, fishing in sync with the moon and the tide.
According to Australian Prawns, there are 15 major prawn fisheries around Australia. Many fishers are family businesses and many families have been fishers for generations.
You’ll find productive prawn fisheries all over Australia, from the warm tropical waters of the Northern Prawn Fishery to the Spencer Gulf in South Australia. Here, fishers brave the frigid roaring forties in search of the western king prawn. Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia both produce kings, tigers and endeavours. These four fisheries, which account for around 50% of wild-caught prawns in Australia, are certified to the international gold standard of sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Aussie prawns are also rated sustainable by the Status of Australian Fish Stocks Reports.
But it’s Queensland’s warm waters that are home to the most species of Australian prawns. Here you’ll find the king, banana, tiger, endeavour, coral, scarlet, bay and red spot prawn.
Are your prawns sustainable?
Fishers only catch what’s sustainable. However, some Australian wild-caught prawns have bycatch issues. Trawling accidentally catches rare species such as dugongs and turtles.
In contrast, Australian prawn farming takes place on land in tanks. This can make it a more sustainable industry, and a more sustainable choice. Prawn farms are found in the northern parts of Australia, mainly in Queensland. The warmer waters in this region enable prawns to grow more rapidly, and also allows for year-round production.
While millions of us plan to enjoy Australian prawns this season, only around half plan to purchase sustainably sourced prawns. This puts our ocean’s supplies at risk. Recent research from the MSC found that one in 10 consumers say they aren’t worried if their shellfish is sustainable; 2.5 million Australians don’t know what sustainable prawns are.
When buying wild-caught prawns this summer, just look for the MSC blue fish tick. This means they’ve been caught at a level where they’ll be around in the future. It’s the only wild-capture fisheries certification and eco-labelling program that meets global best practice requirements set by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards.
For prawn recipes, top tips, a sustainable seafood guide and information on where you can purchase MSC-certified sustainable prawns with the blue fish tick, visit msc.org. For more information on Australian prawns, head to the Australian Prawns website.
Layered wild prawn salad with citrus & avocado emulsion
This recipe by cook and health coach Scott Gooding is a contemporary version of a classic prawn cocktail. It comes with a fresh citrus and avocado emulsion and homemade coriander mayonnaise. It’s served as a layered dish in a glass.
Prep time 30 minutes
Cooking time 6 minutes
500g MSC-certified sustainable Australian prawns (look for the blue fish tick)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
250g mayonnaise (see below)
60ml lime juice
2 corn cobs
5 large tomatoes, pulp removed, diced
Half an iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
Micro herbs (optional)
2 limes, quartered
For the mayonnaise*:
200ml olive oil
200ml avocado oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 free-range egg yolks
45ml lime juice
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
1. Heat salted water in a small saucepan. Cut corn cobs in half and add to water. Reduce heat to a simmer, cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the water, drain and set aside.
2. Deseed the tomatoes and chop, then set aside.
3. Thinly shred the iceberg lettuce and set aside.
4. Remove the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside.
5. Using a blender, combine avocado, lime juice and seasoning in a jug. Blitz until smooth. Set aside in the fridge, in a bowl covered with cling wrap touching the top of the avocado.
6. Combine all ingredients for the mayonnaise apart from oils in a jug or blender. Blitz for 10 seconds before slowly adding oils while continuing to blitz. Once all oil has been added or when it becomes a consistency you like, remove from jug or blender and set aside.
7. Remove shells of prawns. Add oil and butter to a large saucepan on medium/high heat. Add prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
8. Remove from the pan and allow to cool down. Once cooled, chop the prawns and combine them with the mayonnaise.
9. Assemble the stacks in eight parfait glasses with the avocado emulsion on the bottom, followed by the sweetcorn, then the diced tomatoes and lettuce. Top with the prawns in mayonnaise and micro herbs, if using.
* You can use store-bought mayonnaise if you’d prefer.