Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prawn Cocktail

          One can speak of fashion not only when it comes to clothes, shoes, accessories and smart gadgets but to food as well. Indeed, there are tendencies in the food industry: some dishes are classic, others are associated with particular epoch, while the third ones – which become popular overnight – either leave a trace in the gastronomic world or vanish forever from the memories of demanding gourmets. 

         If you asked me to name a retro dish two years ago I would most probably stumble with the answer. Nowadays, however, one dish instantly comes to my mind: prawn cocktail. The thing is, I learnt about this hors d’oeuvre (that was popular in Great Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s) only when I came to India: here in Kolkata there is a good range of seafood and prawn cocktail is on the menu of most of the  “continental” restaurants. My husband appreciated the dish as soon as he came here so I bothered to get a recipe in order to be able to cook it for him at home.

        At that time the source of culinary information that I broadly used was a TV channel featuring the recipes of local chefs. I was lucky to get Sanjeev Kapoor’s version of the prawn cocktail. It was the first recipe of a cocktail sauce that I had ever tried to make in my life and it turned out to be absolutely fantastic! It received the highest praise not only from my husband but from my friends in Moscow as well: I used it for the prawn tartlets when I throw a party during the vocation and they were the winning dish on the table. The secret ingredient? Alcohol! Sanjeev Kapoor suggests using brandy but I prefer to make it with some dark rum: the Indian Old Monk, with a rich caramel flavour, works best.

        Recently, when I served this easy to make appetizer to our local friends who are well familiar with my range of very sophisticated dishes, asserted that I had outdone myself with that prawn cocktail. I was a bit astonished since the dish is way too easy to make and it takes no pains and absolutely no effort to pull it off. I guess, the key to success is rum. I haven’t actually mentioned to them that there was alcohol in the sauce. But you should expect it to be there, shouldn’t you? Otherwise why would it be called “a cocktail”?!


400 gm medium prawns, cleaned
4 tiger prawns, tail on
1 tbsp olive oil
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
a few olives, sliced
a bunch of lettuce
juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

Cocktail sauce (recipe adapted from the original one by Sanjeev Kapoor)½ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp dark rum
a dash of Tabasco sauce


1. Poach medium prawns in a simmering water or court-bouillon for a few minutes and let them cool. Mix all the ingredient for the cocktail sauce and pour in over the prawns. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
2. Marinate tiger prawns in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Grill them for a few minutes on high heat.
3. To serve, arrange some lettuce leaves at the bottom of the chilled cocktail glasses. Divide the medium prawns, together with the sauce, between them. Arrange slices of the egg and olives on top and place the tiger prawns on the rims of the glasses.

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