I’ve already mentioned my latest weekend of food and debauchery in my post about Brown Bread and Guinness Ice Cream, but that barely scraped the surface of our foodie shenanigans (in fact, I wouldn’t doubt if some of us were too drunk by the time the ice cream was served to remember if it was actually good – but take it from me, it’s badass).
Also on the food experiment list was this posh prawn cocktail. But before I go on, let me say a little bit more about our crew last weekend because they’re all part of the story…
It was me, Kavey from Kavey Eats, Pete from Pete Drinks and Marie from Lanyon Cottages. We met in Cornwall last June on a holiday organised by the Food Travel Company. Throughout the trip, we four were always the ones lingering around the dining table long after everyone had gone to sleep, and during those evenings of good drink and great food, we bonded. We affectionately call ourselves the “Fab Four”, and have now had two reunions here at the O.C. It’s hard to believe I’ve only known them since June – this a seriously rare case of instantly comfortable friendships, the kind where you can have these people over to your house for a weekend and never feel sick of each other, you don’t feel like you have to “entertain” and no one’s “in the way”. If Pete feels like taking a nap, he just goes and takes a nap. No body’s worried about anyone else’s well-being, because it’s all pretty clear that we’re totally at ease.
Despite the lack of pressure to entertain, I got it in my head last weekend that I wanted to do something kind of retro-tastic, dinner party style for one of our meals. I wasn’t about to break out the cocktail dress, but cocktails sounded like a fun idea, and so did hors d’oeuvres.
Enter Great British Chefs recently posted their collection of Christmas recipes where I found Chris Horridge’s Prawn Cocktail. The recipe reminded me of my first and only prawn cocktail experience with Genie Cooks at The Bell at Sapperton just a few weeks ago. I think my recent foray into Jell-O molds and cheese balls in preparation for Thanksgiving has me jazzed about retro food (so weird!), so prawn cocktail has definitely appeal. Unfortunately, the prawn cocktail at The Bell was “rubbish” – crappy little prawns excessively splooged with the signature Marie Rose sauce (what we American would equate to Thousand Island Dressing) and with very little salad to speak of. Genie backed me up – this was not a great prawn cocktail:
Ever since The Bell, I’ve been driven to make a prawn cocktail that I would actually eat. An opportunity was knocking!
The prawn cocktail recipe at Great British Chefs isn’t your traditional prawn cocktail, and you could argue that it isn’t really prawn cocktail at all. But with nice prawns and a freshly made creamy tomato sauce, it’s a pretty solid starter regardless. The sauce – at least as I made it – erred more on the tomato side than the mayo side, and actually worked just as well with the vegetarian version we made for prawn-hater Pete, subbing buffalo mozzarella for the prawns, and garnishing with basil instead of dill.
There are a few other Christmas recipes in the Great British Chefs collection that I’d like to try, particularly the carrots with tarragon and garlic and the apricot stuffing (vegetarian-ised). And having tried the prawn cocktail recipe, I know to expect the unexpected, which I kind of like, especially during the holidays when you’re meant to kick things up a few measures from the norm. Perhaps The Bell, a pub which tries to convey the image of super posh, artisanal, fine-dining country Cotswolds bliss (it has “horse parking” for goodness sake) could learn a thing or two from this recipe.