It is, where I live, difficult to impossible to buy potted shrimps. I did order some of the legendary Morecambe Bay shrimps from Ocado, but they screwed up, as I mentioned in this post.
So, as I can’t buy brown shrimps (same post), I decided to go with prawns instead, the tiny pink variety that used to be peddled, in paper bags, in pubs on Saturday nights by burly men in white coats, carrying huge wicker baskets, and armed with the appropriate condiments – malt vinegar and white pepper.
I bought a 200g pack, from Sainsbury’s, not the pub, not just to test the water, but also because they have a short shelf life, even in the fridge – and that’s enough for 2 good portions.
Where the wheels almost came off the project was in clarifying the butter. I’ve clarified Anchor butter in the past, and very easy it was too. This time it was different – Anchor has a huge liquid content these days (either added water or added whey), and separating the butter from the crap was impossible. I did, though, with care, manage to spoon enough clarified butter off the top to get the job done. The rest was poured into an empty bottle and binned.
Having drained the prawns, I melted a small knob of butter, added ground mace, cayenne pepper, white pepper and a little fine sea salt, and heated the prawns gently – watching in dismay as they gave off at least half their volume in water! I’ve mentioned the supermarket habit of adding water to any damn thing they possibly can – and I’m getting bloody tired of it, though I can’t blame them for the butter.
Anyway, I spooned out, and drained, the hot prawns (don’t heat them for too long, they’ll go rubbery), I tasted one and it was nicely spicy, divided them between two ramekins and spooned the warm clarified butter over them, carefully avoiding the sludge.
As soon as they were cool I put them in the fridge then, once the butter was solid, added another thin layer, as it had contracted as it cooled, so that the prawns were completely covered.
I noticed later, looking at the availability of potted shrimps online, that the professionals don’t seem to clarify the butter, just melt it – something to bear in mind for the future. That or use ghee.
In fact, I’ve just ordered 500g of East End brand ghee for £2 from Tesco (normal price £3.99, also at Ocado at this price). Be aware that you can pay up to £8.99 for exactly the same stuff (on Amazon). Ghee is an Indian staple, not a bloody luxury food!
So, anyway, I’ll be having one pot tonight, and the other tomorrow. I suspect they might keep a day or two longer, but no sense in pushing my luck…
Traditionally, they’re served warm or at room temperature – never fridge cold – with hot toast. Of course, hot toast very quickly becomes cold toast, so I’ll be having mine with Carr’s Melts, a very light, slightly salty, wheaten cracker which goes with pretty much anything.
I also put up a jar of pickled eggs, which will keep for months.
Pickled eggs have a bad press, mainly because the commercial product has become so degraded as to barely qualify as food. Home-made, they can be wonderful.
Couldn’t be simpler. You need a sterile jar, of course (I sterilise mine with sodium metabisulphite powder (from Boots or any homebrew shop**), enough hard-boiled eggs to fill it (as fresh as possible – long-dated supermarket eggs will do – elderly eggs are an absolute bugger to peel). If you have a source of ultra-fresh eggs, then you’re on a winner.
Also in tablet form as Campden Tablets (Amazon, or as above). Whichever form you use, avoid breathing the fumes, especially if you’re asthmatic. Seriously.
Peel the boiled eggs, and place gently in the bottom of the jar (don’t drop them, they might split), until you reach the top – don’t pack them tightly – remember they have to come out again. Then add any flavourings and the vinegar.
This is where commercial pickled egg producers get it hopelessly wrong. They don’t add any flavourings, and use distilled vinegar, which contributes nothing but vicious acidity.
To mine I added a generous teaspoon of mustard seed (for half a dozen eggs), a quarter-teaspoon of home-made celery salt, and a good pinch of fine sea salt. Then I added about 20% balsamic vinegar and topped it up with Aspall cyder vinegar, capped it tightly and gave it a gentle shake to settle the eggs, making sure none were pressed tightly against the sides so they become evenly coloured (it doesn’t matter that much, but hey, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right).
That’s a personal thing – I don’t like pallid pickled eggs. Doubtless this stems from my youth when eggs were pickled in malt vinegar, heavy with English pickling spices, and were the colour of a mahogany wardrobe – bite into those babies, and if you were a bit of a pussy, they’d bite right back!
But tastes change, and I find malt vinegar a tad too harsh. Aspall cyder vinegar is what I use for most vinegary tasks, except for putting on chips – then it just has to be Sarson’s malt** (it’s not Aspall’s, by the way – Aspall is a place). In the past I’ve used treacle to colour it, and also soy sauce, both successful in their own way, but I thought the innate sweetness of the balsamic vinegar would complement the cyder vinegar nicely. I’ll know in a couple of weeks.
**Aspall do a Golden Malt vinegar, which is interesting, and might well be good for pickling eggs, as it’s more mellow than the standard brown malt. The problem with Aspall, though, is that their vinegar comes in piddling little 350ml bottles – how about litre bottles, guys? Even pints would be an improvement!
I’m supposed to be making chorizo today, but it’s not going to happen as, for the last few days, I’ve been almost completely wiped out by nausea (not helped by the fact that last night was mostly sleepless (I seem to be sleeping alternate nights at the moment – better than not at all, but still not great). No idea what causes the nausea, but I suspect it’s something to do with my PC.
I felt terrible yesterday, so about 20.30 I decided I’d read instead (well, I have got my new Kindle Paperwhite to play with – I might have mentioned that! ), and within half an hour or so, no more nausea.
I had PC-related problems in the past. About a year ago, even on a cold day, if I sat at my keyboard, within minutes sweat would be pouring off me – it was like sitting in front of an open oven, yet neither my monitor or PC emit heat of any consequence, and I don’t believe the “electronic smog” nonsense. Anyway, the problem went away, but has now metamorphosed into nausea which, as I spend a large part of my day sitting here, either writing, or reading, or just mooching around online, I really don’t need.
I suppose I’ve got a few days grace (BBE date is Nov 20, but I’m not paranoid about dates), but if I feel no better tomorrow, the pork shoulder I bought for the chorizo will have to go in the freezer, cut into three portions so it can be resurrected as pork and beans, Szechuan pork, or chilli at some point in the future.
You’re not supposed to thaw meat – or any food – then refreeze it, but earlier this year I had a brainstorm and used frozen belly pork to make sausages, which I then froze – absolutely no problem, so we’ll see…
One thing I can do, that’s very easy, is make some more Sauce Tartare. I made some a couple of weeks ago, and very nice it was, too, but one day last week it got left on the worktop, instead of going back in the fridge, and it might have gone off. No way of telling short of eating it, by which time it’s too late! So I’ll make more.
One thing I have to make is vegetable soup, as it’s less work than making sausages and I’ve got veggies that need to be used.
Sweetspear carrots, which live up to their name
Long, pointy, sweet red peppers
Half a swede
Cabbage – about a handful, shredded
Orzo pasta (the rice-grain-sized stuff, which swells nicely in soup). If you put pasta in soup, always go for the smallest size you can. On one occasion I used penne, which wound up like garden hose, so best to err on the small side – broken linguine is good, about half an inch long.
Canned beans of some sort (got lots to choose from but probably pinto beans)
Potatoes, cooked separately so they don’t fall to mush, and diced,
And lots of passata
The plan is to cook off the veggies (beans go in at the end), all diced so everything is a uniform, spoon-friendly, size, in a light vegetable stock, as carrots and swedes take forever to cook in a tomato-based stock, adding the passata towards the end. That way the tomato flavour will be really fresh, and the veggies will tastes of themselves.
I think I’ll cook it in the pressure cooker – see how it works out.
And that, boys and girls, is about it for now, though I do have a rather good beef stew, bulked out with butter beans, which needs to be portioned and frozen today, even if I do nothing else. but I think I’ll have a snooze first.