"A gin and tonic says a lot about you as a person. It is more than just a drink, it is an attitude of mind. It goes with a prawn cocktail, a grilled Dover sole, Melba toast and Black Forest gâteau." Nico Ladenis, My Gastronomy, 1987
It's weird not having a kitchen; or at least, one we can use. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're having our kitchen completely re-built. It's now at the "shell" stage; interesting scraps of Victorian wallpaper have emerged. There's builder's dust everywhere, and we're living a hand-to-mouth existence upstairs.
But this made me think. How difficult is it to come up with original and interesting recipes that don't actually need any cooking? Obviously, you could go down the salad route- which would would be fine, up to a point Lord Copper. But it could get pretty darn boring after a few days. Ceviche could be more interesting. The famous Mexican dish in which raw fish gets "cooked" in citrus juices and chili. No stove involved. This could be an interesting idea for a book? "Gourmet Food without a Cooker". Has anyone written one yet?
Another suggestion on this theme is the ubiquitous Prawn Cocktail. I have no shame in holding up my hand and championing this dish. It's a classic. Everybody secretly loves it. According to Australian Gourmet Traveller: "in 1959, a dish consisting of shrimp with a dollop of cocktail sauce, served in a sundae glass, was popularised by Las Vegas’s Hotel Nevada (now the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino), which coined the term “original shrimp cocktail”. It was served for fifty cents, and this price has increased only twice in the intervening years".
Here's how I make it: The first step is to create a Marie-Rose Sauce. A spoonful of tomato ketchup, a few drops of Tabasco, a drop or two of Lea & Perrins, and a squeeze of lemon juice are added to a mayonnaise base. You can alter the flavourings to suit your taste. Salt and white pepper might be a good idea too. I like it to have a slight kick. Cooked prawns are then placed in a small glass or tumbler (quite possibily on a bed of designer lettuce) and the Marie Rose sauce poured on top. I'm rather anti garnishes at the moment. Simplicity is a good thing, so I would probably serve it as it is. If the ingredients are good, the dish will shine.
Now for a bizarre twist on the classic Marie Rose Sauce. While trawling the internet, I found a recipe for something called "Sauce Liberal" from none other than our old mucker, The Duchess of Windsor (aka Mrs Wallis Simpson). You make the Marie Rose sauce in the usual way- but finish it off by mixing in "liberal" slugs of neat gin. I gather that this went down rather well at the Windsors' sybaritic villa off the Bois de Bologne.
The Windsor villa in the Bois de Bologne: the spiritual home of "Sauce Liberal"
This worried me. Okay, I didn't exactly have a sleepless night over it, but I reckoned that the bitter taste of the warm gin would ruin an otherwise excellent sauce. So, as an experiment, I boiled up some gin in a pan, until all the alcoholic vapours had burnt off, then added the reduced spirit to the sauce. It worked! The juniper flavours came through, and it gave the sauce a subtle twist.
The Greasy Spoon Kitchen, as taken this afternoon. The plastic bin horror in the front corner will have to go.