Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prawn cocktail

Prawn cocktail, for me, is inextricably associated with my childhood, when it was the fall-back starter at every dinner table. I remember a friend inviting another friend and me back for tea on her 12th birthday; we had prawn cocktail and then tandoori chicken and we thought that we were the epitome of cool. Or rather she did - I predictably didn't really like prawns and was frantically thinking up ways to avoid the starter, whilst maintaining an air of sophistication. I don't remember how or if I contrived not to eat it. That episode apart, prawn cocktail was utterly ubiquitous as I was growing up, and then it did a vanishing act and I forgot about it completely until a few years ago, when I tried Delia's version for the 21st century and was bowled over- that version, like Jamie's, has avocado in it, and I can't resist avocado in any form. I am also alarmingly keen on the vile-sounding Marie Rose sauce, which by rights should terrify anyone. So if anyone is planning a retro dinner party, I'd be happy to come along.

Anyway, to make this particular prawn cocktail, I washed and drained a round and a little gem lettuce and dressed them with lemon juice, seasoning and a little olive oil. I made the Marie Rose sauce with mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and - this was a new one for me - a little brandy. I know brandy sounds really odd. I knew that as I added it, hoping it would turn out okay and wouldn't ruin that implausibly tasty sauce. To serve, I laid wedges of avocado on a plate, added the prawns and the lettuce leaves and spooned over the sauce, drizzling it around the plate, then smattering the dish with cayenne. On the side, as suggested, we had pangrattato made from stale white bread. I should add that prawn cocktail is often served in a glass; Jamie's, in the picture, is on a plate. I asked Simon what he thought about serving it in a glass and he insisted that that would be naff, so we stuck to the simple white plate. The kitsch exhibitionist in me quite liked the idea of the glass, but in the end the plate looked pretty good too...

What to say? It was really good; the brandy didn't ruin the sauce at all (although I am not convinced that the brandy is absolutely essential). It reminded me why retro isn't necessarily a bad thing and that the revival of the prawn cocktail is definitely a good thing (as long as it isn't the only starter doing the dinner party rounds). Who knows - maybe I'll kickstart the retro food revolution round here.


Jayne said...

LOL at the glass comment by Simon - my OH says exactly the same thing and so I always serve Prawn Cocktail on plain white china. I should add that I love Prawn Cocktail (with or without brandy in the sauce). "Retro here we come"
Jayne ;-)

Freya said...

I have always loved prawn cocktail (and even more retro, prawn vol au vents) and never stopped eating it! I like it in a glass, and I certainly don't think it constitutes naff, any more than a whole frond of chives or bunch of redcurrants on your plate anyway!
That said, it does look pretty on the plate! Love the addition of avocado!

Kathryn said...

Hmm, I'm glad you two are retro too! I quite like the idea of it in a glass but I may well be a bit naff. I do think it looks nice on the plate too though. Avocado is now an essential in my prawn cocktail:).

Kathryn x

Kelly-Jane said...

I love prawn cocktail. I have eaten it when it was chic, non-chic and back again. I just love it so much!

It looks very pretty on a white plate :)

I serve mine in glasses but only one particular shape...

The marie rose sauce I use is Rick Stein's and it has a bit of whisky in it, but it seems to enhance it somehow.


Lisa said...

I love it, too! I love prawns pretty much any way, and definitely w/avocado. Glad you enjoyed it :).

Gemma said...

I used to hate prawns as a child but now love both prawns and prawn cocktail so this looks like a winner!

Gravy Queen said...

I love this recipe and I did mine in a cocktail glass, I love a bit of naff I do. It looked very pretty !
I left the brandy out Kathryn, I just didn't think it was necessary and I didn't want to spoil the lovely sauce which was absolutely fine without.
Plus I prefer brandy to be served in a tall glass with diet coke for leisurely swigging.
GQ x

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