A recent visit to a small new enterprise on the slipway at Kyle of Lochalsh, Buth Bheag, the Little Shop, (01599 534002) is my inspiration for today.
This tiny store has a thriving trade as a deli, an ice-cream parlour, and a fish shop. Stocked with glistening, fresh produce, it’s the ideal spot to buy an impromptu picnic of the ultimate quality. When it comes to shellfish, when you have the very best, just keep it simple. This type of picnic is the dream of all fish-lovers. I had a large white, soft bun filled with prawn mayonnaise. The prawns were what I call squat lobsters, and which are often referred to as “langostinos”. Squatties are sweet and succulent and, given the choice, which is rare these days outside such enterprises as Buth Bheag, I would choose squatties above crab, lobster, everything. We who are lucky enough to live on or near the west coast of Scotland have the opportunity to eat the luscious shellfish caught off our shores. The word “prawn” covers a variety of shellfish, from large langoustines to the tiny brown shrimp, caught on the Solway Firth and further down that coast. The ones to avoid are the frozen bright pink prawns, which I am convinced are manufactured in a factory and have never set so much as a whisker in the briny.
Use any kind of prawns, apart from those ones, for the following recipes.
Prawns with red pepper and garlic cream bruschetta
This is enough for 18 bruschetta, serving 6 allowing 3 per person.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red peppers, each halved and seeds scooped away
1 clove of garlic, skinned and chopped
18 bruschetta made from sliced baguette, about 1cm thick, grilled on both sides
1 teaspoon salt, 12 grinds of black pepper
8oz/225g Philadelphia cream cheese – this can be reduced fat
54 squatties, which allows 3 per bruschetta, or 2 larger prawns per bruschetta which means 36 prawns
18 sprigs of coriander, to garnish
Heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Chop the de-seeded red peppers and fry them gently with the chopped garlic, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Cool them in the pan. When cooled, tip the contents of the sauté pan into a food processor. Add the salt and black pepper and blend to a smooth purée. Add the Philadelphia cream cheese and whiz to amalgamate with the red pepper purée.
Spread each bruschetta with some of the red pepper mixture. Put 3 squatties or 2 prawns on each, and a sprig of coriander. You can spread the bruschetta several hours in advance of eating, but cover the platter loosely with cling film and store in the fridge till 30 minutes before serving.
Very retro, but staging a comeback, and rightly so. A good prawn cocktail is a delicious first course.
½ pint/285ml crème fraîche
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tomato purée
a good shake of Tabasco
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of good mayonnaise, homemade if possible
about 10 grinds of black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt
1lb/450g prawns, weighed when shelled – if the prawns are large, slice them into smaller bits
assorted lettuce leaves of your choice – the classic prawn cocktail has iceberg lettuce as its base, and the crunch is good but it is utterly tasteless.
6 lemon wedges
a dusting of cayenne pepper, to garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine the crème fraîche, Worcester sauce, lemon juice and tomato purée, working the tomato purée thoroughly into the other ingredients. Then mix in the Tabasco, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, black pepper and salt.
You can either fold the prawns into the sauce, or spoon the sauce over the prawns as you assemble the cocktail. My preference is to mix the prawns and sauce together.
To assemble, divide the salad leaves evenly between 6 goblets or glass dishes. Spoon the prawns and sauce on top of the leaves, and dust each serving lightly with cayenne or, if you dislike the hint of chilli in cayenne, with a light dusting of the much milder paprika. Serve a lemon wedge at the side of each prawn cocktail.
Prawns with spring onions in a creamy sauce for pasta
This is so quick and easy – and so good.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 rashers of back bacon, fat trimmed away and the bacon sliced into very fine strips, about ½ cm thick
12 spring onions, trimmed at either end and sliced diagonally into 2cm lengths
1 rounded teaspoon flour
½ pint/285ml milk
½ pint/285ml single cream
½ teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
1lb/450g prawns – if they are large, slice them smaller
Heat the olive oil in a wide-based saucepan and fry the bacon and sliced spring onions over fairly high heat, stirring continuously. Stir and fry for 2-3 minutes – the spring onions should retain their vivid green colour. Stir in the flour, mix well, and gradually add the milk and cream, stirring all the time. When the sauce bubbles, count to 30 then draw the pan off the heat. Leave the prawns in the hot sauce for 2-3 minutes before stirring them in to cooked pasta – my choice is always for spaghetti. Serve immediately.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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