Prawn on the Fourth of July

travfood-4thjulyflagONE of the (many) reasons why we love Philippa Davis – apart from the blazingly obvious that she is a brilliant and inspirational chef – is her ability to make  excruciating food puns out of her various travels and commissions. She is now in the USA for several weeks, working in Boston, where her visit began with 4th July celebrations.

If you think the British are obsessed by the weather you should talk to a Bostonian. Throughout the year they get it all from heavy snow, storms and high winds to bright blue skies and sunshine. I guess as lots of people are boat and/or fish orientated it’s natural the weather will be of constant interest. I arrived to dark skies, rain and in need of a jumper. I could have stayed in Blighty for this, I thought, but with everyone cheerful that the sun would come out tomorrow, I settled into my new home. The next day… oh boy, did the sun come out and then set with the most theatrical display”

travfood-4thjulyfoodThe first big party we held was 4th July celebrations. We had 35 adults and about a dozen kids coming. I decided to tone down my English accent for the day, though I did sneak a very English dessert of Eton Mess into the menu. For mains, as it’s all about lobster here, we decided on roasting 37 of them and smoking 20 lb of baby back (pork) ribs. It was truly a feast!

The party was a wild success with kids and adults all tucking into the sweet buttery crustaceans and getting messy with the ribs. Desserts were practically all demolished and at around 10pm the fireworks of Boston and the surrounding towns started popping up into the sky. To go with this, the amazing Boston Pops orchestra broadcasts live with a programme including the Indiana Jones theme tune, the 1812 and of course Stars and Stripes. We thought the party might wind down post fireworks but there was a sudden second wind and the leftover ribs got raided from the fridge and were totally scoffed.

travfood-4thjulyThe only thing I still had to deal with was the left over lobster. Last time I got my hand on this many I made enough stock to fill a bathtub, though frankly it wasn’t totally to my liking. This year, having picked off the last of the lobster meat (with some help from half a team of Ivy League football players), I gathered my buckets of shells and had another go. The trick is to bring the stock to a boil with the shells in, cook for 30 to 40 minutes, strain it and then reduce the stock down. If you leave the shells in too long the stock goes very bitter. The stock is delicious (I have 20 litres) so I am planning lots of lobster flavoured soups, bisques, paellas and risottos. That or a fishy bath.

On a non food note I watched my first cherry-stone spitting competition. Putting it politely I couldn’t quite believe the diversity of people’s ability. As soon as I got home, I grabbed a bowl of cherries and headed to the bottom of the garden to try it for myself – turns out I have a new skill!

travfood-4thjulysunsetSmoked prawn with avocado and chilli crostini.

It’s hard not to get obsessed about smoking, the results are delicious but there is something primal and wildly rewarding in the skill it takes to get it right. From making one’s own salt rubs and barbecue sauces to taming the heat and perfecting the amount of smoke. We served this as an appetiser on 4th July. You will need a smoker, lump wood charcoal, and wood chips like apple and hickory.

Makes 20 crostini

20 large raw peeled prawns
2 tbs olive oil
200g butter melted


4 tsp fine sea salt
3 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper


2 ripe avocados
1 small clove garlic
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp chopped green chilli
juice from 1 lime
2 tbs chopped coriander

To serve

1 loaf ciabatta
Extra sprigs of coriander
Squeeze of extra lime juice.
Mix the prawns with the olive oil

Mix the rub ingredients together then toss through the prawns with 2 tbs olive oil, leave for 30 mins. Meanwhile light your smoker and get it to reach 200 °F. Once at temperature, lay a large piece of foil shiny side down, tip on the prawns (discarding any juice that may come out of them) then pour over the melted butter. Add your chips to the coals and close the lid. Smoke for 30 – 40 mins. They should be cooked and smokey.
You can eat then warm or leave them to cool.

To make the avocado spread: Peel and de-stone the avocado and roughly chop, add the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

To serve toast the ciabatta, smear with the avocado mix and top with a smoked prawn. Squeeze over a little extra lime and garnish with a leaf of coriander.

For more of Philippa’s postcard recipes visit