After a long hiatus from Australia (3 years) and many adventures later in South America and beyond , my best friend and roving photographer Jacinta finally decided a (temporary) visit home to Melbourne was in order just in time for Christmas last year. Her parents farm just outside of Ballarat which she took every chance to escape from as a teenager was luring her back with an entirely new appreciation. Hoorah!
For some time I had heard about the legendary status of Jacinta’s mum’s beautifully presented desserts all made in a wood fired oven and her brothers love of fine wine and back yard pizza making in the farm next door. When the opportunity to visit the farm arose which included a side of yabby catching for dinner, I was very excited to say the least.
Having lived in rural NSW for the first few years of my life, catching yabbies (along with putting my little hand smack in the middle of a fresh cow pattie) is one of the earliest memories I have. It was all so exciting to pull out the nets after a while and see all the yabbies chomping into the big piece of meat in the middle.
Yabbies are closely related to their saltwater cousins prawns and lobsters (and look like a miniature version of both) but are only found in freshwater habitats such as dams, rivers and small lakes in rural Australia. They are a survivor – living up to 3 years in drought by burying themselves close to the water table and can stand a range of water temperatures from -1 to 35C. The freshwater gives them a much sweeter and less fishy flavour that is great for someone like me that normally hates any “seafood” on pizza.
In order to catch a yabby all you have to do is tie a piece of string around a little piece of meat, attach it to a stick which is left stuck in the shore and throw the line out into the water. Once the yabbies have had time to get acquainted and are tugging on the line, you slowly lure them in and scoop up. So fun!! And immediately gratifying unlike fishing which I am far too impatient for. Long after Jacinta’s nieces had grown tired of the afternoon I was still out there!
A couple of buckets later, followed by boiling in a large pot and a yabby peeling working bee, the yabbies were ready to be pizza topping. A further 10 minutes in the radiating pizza oven and then onto the plate. OH MY they were SO GOOD!!!
The kids preferred catching the yabbies to eating them as you can see by their Hawaiian pizza above however, f you ever get the chance to go yabbying – do – even if you’ve always hated fishing. It’s such a fun afternoon out especially if the kids are joining in too. As yabbies have unpredictable cycles, its not always easy to source them although sometimes they can be found in large commercial or Asian markets in Melbourne and Sydney.
This recipe works just as well with prawns, which can be found all year round and are a natural accompaniment to my own yummy recipe here for sweet chilli tomato sauce. Use this sauce as base to your yabbie/ prawn pizza or tossed in with pasta.
Sweet Chilli & Roasted Tomato Yabby Pizza
Sweet Chilli & Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 1 kg fresh tomatoes or 2 x cans tinned tomatoes
- 2 x cloves fresh garlic
- 1 red onion
- 10 red birds eye chillies (gives small kick of heat)
- 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups of tomato passata
Pizza Base & Topping
(Recipe Marissa Travain – Va Bene Pizzeria)
(Make fresh or use ready made pizza bases instead)
- 200g yabbies OR fresh prawns
- 500g plain or pizza flour
- 150g fine semolina
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 400ml luke warm water
- 3 Tbl Olive Oil
- 10g dried yeast
- Chop tomatoes, onion and garlic in half, splash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast at 200c for about 30 minutes until soft.
- Combine sugar and apple cider vinegar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- Combine tomato mixture with the sugar/vinegar and boil in a pan for approximately 15 minutes
- Once cooled liquify the sauce with a stick blender
- Makes 2 cups of sauce – use as a pizza base or toss in pasta
Pizza Base and Topping
- Pre-heat oven as high as it will go!
- Combine salt and flour and make a well in the flour
- Mix oil, yeast and lukewarm water together
- Pour liquid into the flour well and combine
- Knead dough for approximately 15 minutes
- Leave dough in a warm place to prove (rise) cover with cling film
- Once it has doubled in size, divide dough into balls and roll bases for your pizza
- Top base with sauce, poach yabbies/ prawns in white wine or place onto top of base raw (its ok!)
- Bake pizza for approximately 10 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is) until cooked.