Eats, Shoots & Reads

Eats #4: Ka Pow!

Ingredients: [Marie Rose Sauce] 3 1/3 heaped tablespoons homemade shop bought mayonnaise, 1 heaped tablespoon ketchup, splash worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tablespoon brandy, lemon. [Other] 1 small round lettuce, 2 baby gem lettuce, cress, 300g cooked prawns, 1 ripe avocado, cayenne pepper, lemon, olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper. [Pangrattato] 2 slices stale bread, olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper.

Note: I reduced the ingredients by half to serve 2 people.

Difficulty: 2/5
Rating: 4/5

This week I cooked assembled “Prawn Cocktail” (page 264, Cook with Jamie).

I’m not a massive fan of prawns, and I would never order a prawn cocktail in a restaurant. Prawns can be delicious if cooked properly, pipping hot smothered in sauce or hidden in a nice creamy risotto but cold and in a prawn cocktail, no thanks!

I’m determined, however, to stay true to the challenge… yes there are dishes and ingredients I don’t like but experiencing new and exciting combinations is what makes this whole process fun – a chance to rediscover a passion for something I dislike!

Start by separating and washing the lettuce leaves. Jamie recommends using a salad spinner to dry the leaves as dressings tend to cling better when dry but unfortunately I don’t own a salad spinner so I skipped this step – a big mistake! The leaves were fresh, crisp and tasty but the excess water puddled on my plate and mixed with the Marie Rose sauce changing the texture of the overall dish – a salad spinner is definitely on my shopping list for next time!

To create the Marie Rose sauce mix the mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brandy and cut with lemon to taste. At this point I need to hold my hands up and admit to not making my own mayonnaise. It’s not that I didn’t want the hassle or challenge of making mayonnaise I simply failed to read the recipe! I don’t feel too guilty though as Jamie says “mayo from a jar is OK – I use it myself when I’m in a hurry – but for a special occasion you can’t beat the real McCoy!”.

Once the lettuce and Marie Rose sauce are prepared it’s time to make the Pangrattato. I’ve never heard of Pangrattato before but it turns out it’s just a fancy name for croutons (literally scratched/scraped bread in Italian). Simply blitz the stale bread in a food processor until you have rough bread crumbs. Put a generous glug of olive oil in a hot pan, season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and fry until golden and crisp.

Now onto the avocado, not something I’ve ever feared in the past but after reading in the recipe that “Cuts from stoning avocados are one of the most common injuries in hospitals, so be warned, you nutters!” and being prone to the odd cut from chopping I was cautious. I scored the avocado length ways and twisted into two halves. Popped the half with the stone on the chopping board and smacked it with the knife. A simple twist of the knife and the stone popped out – what was all the fuss about??

Next step, removing the skin with no mention of how… do I use a knife? slide a spoon under the skin? cut the skin off? I was clueless… turns out all you do is peel it off using your fingers.

Don’t get me wrong I love this cookbook, it has so many varied recipes and lots of simple, home cooked food but my one criticism is sometimes it assumes too much.

Once peeled, chop the avocado into thin slices and you’re ready to assemble. Drizzle the lettuce leaves with olive oil, lemon and season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange the lettuce, prawns, avocado and cress on a plate and spoon over the Marie Rose sauce. Finally sprinkle on the Pangrattato and dust lightly with cayenne pepper.

Review

Were my initial reservations about prawns confirmed? No… the prawns were sweet and juicy and accompanied with a zingy Marie Rose sauce and cayenne pepper it had a lovely ka-pow of a kick.

The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the Pangrattato had a lovely crunch that worked really well with the prawns. Although this dish is described as a starter in reality it’s a salad (despite halving the quantities) and surprisingly filling. Not a dish I can see me repeating that often but a very nice surprise and an excellent twist on an old classic.

Why not give it a go!

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