Monday, 28 July 2008

I Haven't Really Disappeared!

Despite appearances to the contrary, I have not disappeared, nor have I stopped eating! My five day absence was due to the busy-ness of the summer holidays. Over the last few days we've been out and about and enjoying ourselves, but I have still been cooking.

I conducted a very successful experiment with raw prawns on Thursday evening. I had a lovely fillet of organic salmon to cook and planned to do it in my usual way by wrapping it in foil (see the blog entry for 2nd July). However I also had some wonderful raw prawns. As I have never actually cooked raw prawns before I was in a bit of a quandry as to how to cook them, but I knew they would taste wonderful with the salmon.

Prawns by another name are shrimp. I never know what to call these lovely little treasures from the sea actually. I remember when I first came to England all those years ago, my Canadian ears balked at the term "prawns". Where I found the work "shrimp" very appetising, "prawns" sounded to me like something rather awful, perhaps even a bug of some sort. I had visions of some weird creature with strange apendeges sticking out at all angles. Although I use the word "prawns" regularly now, I still sneakily think of them as "shrimp"!

To me, shrimp were something we had at Christmas, when my parents would buy pounds and pounds of them raw. We often had between 30 and 45 people come to the house at Christmas, and the shrimp were always a feature of our midnight buffet (which was never actually at midnight, but was always referred to as such!). I used to help shell and devein the shrimp late Christmas Eve after Mom had cooked them. We would then chill them and serve them the next day with a fantastic sauce Mom made with ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice. This was a phenomenal treat and I rarely ever ate shrimp any other way. So, to find on my arrival in England that British shrimp not only had another name, but that they were actuallly being served in a sauce that bore no resemblance to the delicious one I was used to, was something I found very hard to become accustomed to. You see, in England "prawn cocktail" is generally served with a Marie Rose sauce. Traditionally, Marie Rose sauce is a fairly complicated sort of Thousand Island Dressing-esque sauce, but often British cooks will simply mix together mayonnaise or salad cream and ketchup to make it quickly. I now find it delicious, but at the time, I was horrified.

Anyway, back to my experiment Thursday night. I wondered if I could simply wrap the prawns up with the salmon in the aluminium foil and cook them that way. So I prepared the foil as usual, laying slices of onion and lemon on it, and then placing the salmon on top. I deveined the shrimp and sprinkled them on top of that. Dotting the whole lot with butter, I placed it on a baking tray and put it in the oven.

The result was delicious. Flaky pink salmon with luscious tender prawns tumbled over top - yum! I served the fish with new potatoes and some green vegetables. My experiment was entirely successful and I urge you to try it for yourself!

The 21st Century Housewife's
Salmon and Prawn (Shrimp!) Parcels
Serves 2 - 3
1 fillet of skinless and boneless salmon (preferably wild or organically farmed)
a handful of raw prawns (shrimp)
1 lemon, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon butter, diced
Lay a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. Lay the sliced of onion and lemon on top. Now place the salmon fillet on top of the lemon and onion. Tumble over the prawns and dot with butter. Wrap the foil around the fish to make a package and fold the edges to seal. Bake in a 175C or 375F oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. The salmon should flake easily with a fork and the prawns should be cooked to pinky perfection.
I'm sure this would taste lovely served with a Hollandaise or Dill sauce if you fancied it.
Oh, and just in case you would like it, here's my Mom's recipe for yummy shrimp sauce. This is great served over shrimp in shrimp cocktail, or serve it as a dip with big shrimp at a cocktail party. The first time I did this in England the sauce raised some eyebrows as it is so different than a Marie Rose sauce, but I've never seen shrimp disappear so fast in my life! Now I get asked to make my Mom's sauce regularly. The beauty of this sauce is you can adjust it to taste. I like it with a good hit of horseradish, tempered lightly with lemon, but you can adjust the quantities to make it taste milder or to focus the attention on the tomato side of things instead. I recommend a light hand with the horseradish. You can always add more ketchup to make it milder, but my Mom and I occasionally ended up with far too much sauce this way!
Mom's Shrimp Sauce
1 cup of ketchup (and it just has to be Heinz!)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (you may not use it all)
1 - 3 tablespoons mild horseradish (or use hot if you dare!)
Mix the horseradish into the ketchup one tablespoon at a time. Keep tasting here, you want a nice horseradish hit but you don't want it to take your head off. The tomato should still be a tangible presence. When you think you have just the right amound, add a bit of the lemon juice. Taste. Add more lemon if you want it. The idea is to mix up a zingy sauce, but nothing too too hot. This is amazing with shrimp, and it will always be my very favourite way to eat them.

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