Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Potted Shrimps

Potted shrimp is one of those terribly English things that peppered my childhood reading and fired my interest without me really knowing what it was.

In one of the Blandings books Lord Emsworth is horrified and outraged when his pig girl goes to get her tea and shrimps without sufficient concern for her charge the prize pig Empress of Blandings.

Then I got a bit older and (if humanly possible) more interested in food. And I discovered that mixing tiny brown shrimps with melted butter is not just a delicacy but a preservative. Using melted, clarified butter efficiently excludes air preventing the growth of aerobic bacteria. The traditional seasonings of nutmeg and mace add a bit of spice to mask the flavour of slightly past-it seafood and may also help to kill bacteria.

Most importantly, of course, they taste good. When I first arrived in England we went to a celebrity chef-run restaurant (which I shall tactfully not name) and were served two of the most abysmal steaks that anyone ever charged £30 for. But I can't be entirely down on the place because it was there that I first tried potted shrimps. And fell hopelessly in love.

Now when I go to 32 Great Queen St, I have to hope that the potted shrimps AREN'T on the menu, so I can order something else. If they are on the menu I haven't the strength to resist.

I've been wanting to make them myself for ages. The thing that has put me off is the thought of peeling all those little shrimp. I really don't have the patience for that sort of fiddle. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that The Fish Society sells peeled brown shrimp online. Nothing was holding me back but the need for a recipe.

I searched long and hard, comparing recipes from all over. But I decided that Marco Pierre White was the way forward. His recipe appealled because firstly it sounded right. All the flavourings that I wanted to see in it (white pepper, cayenne, mace and nutmeg) were there. And secondly he did away with the tedious clarifying process. I suppose in this day and age no one is actually planning to store seafood on a larder shelf for weeks at a time...

So I made it. Scaled down because I only had 200g of shrimp.

It made 2 tidy little ramekins worth, with enough left over to pile, still warm, on a couple of thick slabs of toasted rye sourdough bread for some quality control.

The next night we had some more of them piled onto a barbecued rump steak for an elegant take on "surf & turf". With an Oregon Pinot Noir it made an extremely fine dinner.

14 comments:

Rachel said...

I always wondered what potted shrimps were too after reading many English novels so I am delighted with your photo essay. Pass me a plate of those shrimps!

Ben said...

I think shrimp goes well in a lot of dishes. Thank you for enlightening us about potted shrimp :D

Foodycat said...

Rachel - glad I could help! They are so sweet and delicious.

Ben - You are welcome! You are right, that salty sweetness is very good with a lot of things.

kat said...

yummy I had potted salt cod & it was wonderful so I can only imagine this is too

HH said...

I have never had these FC, but I am intrigued. I saw Marco Pierre White making his on his show the other day, and here they are again. I knew watching the food channel constantly would pay off.

Foodycat said...

Kat - oh I love brandade! Salt cod is very yummy.

HH - I'm not a fan of MPW, but this is a great recipe. I've never seen the tiny little brown shrimp in Australia though.

Natashya said...

What an interesting dish. I have never heard of it before. Looks great, especially on the steak.. with the wine... :)

Jordana said...

I've never seen potted shrimp before. WOW! They look absolutely delicious on the bread. Count me in! http://menumaniac.blogspot.com

Debinhawaii said...

I have seen and heard of potted shrimp from books and the occasional food mag but have never tried them. How can you go wrong with shrimps and butter though?!

I must say that I am happy to know you are not keeping them in the larder for weeks! ;-)

Foodycat said...

Natashya - I don't usually like steak and seafood but this was really good.

Jordana - glad you liked it!

Deb - yeah, it's a bit warm for that sort of thing.

Sam said...

Potted shrimps are something I've always wanted to try but never have. I can get the shrimps at my local market, you've inspired me to try this!

Stacey said...

The shrimp on toasted sourdough looks delicious.

I have never heard of brown sugar and butter for the shrimp but it sounds different from the norm and really good!

Foodycat said...

Sam - you will love it.

Stacey - brown sugar? What?

maybelle's mom said...

I have always wondered about potted shrimp. It is so English. It is totally enlightening to see them in a photograph.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...