Ahh, the prawn cocktail, that classic dish which – rather than being utterly timeless – does in fact sit solidly in the 1970s.
And the poor thing is not allowed to forget it.
Why is it that this innocuous little dish carries such stigma? That it invariably conjures a blush of shame from the creator and a roll of the eye from the recipient? That since the light-bulb moment in which we all realised what a foolish concoction it clearly was every chef has endeavored either to steer well clear or to transform it? The Gok Wans of the food world decided that this frumpy forty-something clearly needed a style guru to make her acceptable for this hip new era: let’s ditch the dowdy glass and flatter her with foams, deconstruct and reconstruct and throw a few micro-things in between.
I love a prawn cocktail but, in a vanity-lead effort to create a dish with a touch of flair and individualism, I have to admit to doing a bit of styling of my own. I won’t say I’ve improved on the original and I wouldn’t wish you to believe that I will never make the Classic Prawn Cocktail again, I have simply constructed something that is vaguely reminiscent of it.
‘Twas a bit of fun is all.
PS – It goes with the Beetroot and Fennel Purée in my last post and several other things still to come.
For the prawn mix
100g crème fraîche
(Optional: a 1-2 tsps ketchup)
Zest of 1 lemon
Handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
200g cooked, peeled prawns, any size
For the mousse
2 sheets of gelatin (or enough for approx. 300ml liquid)
50g butter or margarine
2 onions, finely chopped
500g spinach, washed
200g cream cheese or Greek Yoghurt
75ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Begin with the prawn mix.
In a bowl beat together the crème fraîche, mayonnaise, ketchup (if using, for a more authentic marie rose flavour), lemon zest, dill and plenty of black pepper.
Roughly chop the prawns so that they are chunky (if very small this isn’t necessary). Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthways and cut out the seeds. These can be set aside for smoothies or soups. Dice the remaining cucumber into fairly small dice. Add the prawns and cucumber to the crème fraîche mix and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
Next make the spinach mousse.
Place the sheets of gelatin in enough cold water to cover. Set aside.
In a large pan melt the butter then add the onions. Cook on a medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the spinach and continue to stir until this has wilted down completely. Take off the heat and put into a food processor or blender along with the cream cheese and double cream. Blend thoroughly. At this stage mine was not very smooth so I passed it through a sieve before adding salt and pepper to taste, but you may have a smoothie blender or something better than mine, so as long as the mix is not lumpy you should be OK without sieving.
NOTE: If you do sieve at this stage, return the finished purée to the heat so that it is hot enough to dissolve the gelatin in the next step.
Check the gelatin has gone limp, squeeze out any water and then add it to the hot spinach mix. Beat thoroughly so that the gelatin has as chance to melt and become evenly distributed.
To assemble the cocktails put a layer of the prawn mix at the bottom of shot glasses (or any other glasses of your choice) making sure you have some left to garnish at the end. Top with a good layer of the spinach mousse then put in the fridge for the mousse to set – about 1-2 hours.
Once set, finish the glasses off with another small dollop of the prawn mix and a pinch of two of paprika.
Note: If you want to do multi-layered shots, do a thin layer each of the prawn mix and the mousse, leave to chill for 1/2-1 hour. Gently reheat the spinach mousse to melt the gelatin again and then repeat the layering, making sure not to put anything onto the spinach mousse until it has fully set.