Saturday, 17 March 2012

'Victims Of Their Own Success' #2 (in a series): The Prawn Cocktail

Creators of those supermarket tubs of 'deli sandwich fillers' have a lot to answer for - you know the ones; the brightly-coloured prepared spreads sold in the refrigerator aisles, next to the cheeses and cold meats. The range at my local Tesco includes coronation chicken (an exotic invention, nodding to the Raj-era flavours brought back home by our colonising ancestors), tuna and sweetcorn (a New York-originated sandwich bar staple) egg mayonnaise (a take on the age-old Jewish invention of egg salad) and prawn cocktail, perhaps the king of any 'classy' 1970's restaurant's fare.

But what has become of the prawn cocktail, or in fact any of these other classic dishes? Well, I'm sad to say that they are a shadow of their formerly glorious selves, mainly consigned to a mayonnaisy death inside a small vaccuum-packed pot, made with the worst quality ingredients and destined to spend their short post-pot lives in a styrofoam bread sandwich or atop a jacket potato. Very sad indeed.

But I say no! Resurrect these old favourites, make them with the best of ingredients and enjoy them as they used to be enjoyed - when the world was a simpler place, when people had landline telephones, when childhood obesity was something that only happened to that one kid at school with gland problems, when battery chickens were a primitive sort of electronic toy, and when Russia was scary(er).

I'll post my coronation chicken recipe at some point in the future - watch this space - but for now, today is all about the prawn cocktail.

These days, the best quality seafood is very cheap to buy in its raw state, so take advantage of those carbon footprint-unfriendly Honduran or Vietnamese air freighted tiger prawns while you can - £5 for two 200g packs is about the price, whichever supermarket you visit. I would recommend using my home-made Mayonnaise recipe in your cocktail sauce - it's cheaper and tastier than any shop bought mayo.

Serve my prawn cocktail the 1970's way - with brown bread and butter. Simply make my Bread recipe with wholemeal flour and even factoring in the cost of the bread, this classic dish still comes in well under budget at £2 per serving.

Serves 4


100g mayonnaise
40g tomato puree
20ml lemon juice
20ml cognac
Half teaspoon of horseradish sauce
1 teaspoon of paprika, plus a little extra reserved for sprinkling
Pinches of salt and pepper
400g raw deveined tiger prawns
1 litre of water with a tablespoon of salt added
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1ch dice
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 little gem lettuces, cut into 1cm wide strips
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, quartered

Bread and butter, to serve

Mix the mayonnaise, tomato puree, lemon juice, cognac, horseradish sauce, paprika and salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. In the meantime, lightly poach the prawns in the salted water and allow to cool. Mix the prawns with the sauce and add the apple, celery and lettuce strips until everything has a light coating of the sauce. Divide the mixture into four martini glasses or small bowls and sprinkle with the chopped parsley, followed by the reserved paprika. Serve with the lemon quarters on the side, and the brown bread and butter.

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