P O T T E D  S H R I M P S

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 4 hours


Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4

Season: Morecambe Bay brown shrimps are in

season from August Bank holiday until Christmas

4 shallots

2 garlic cloves

Sea salt

300 g unsalted butter, divided

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground mace

Small pinch cayenne

1 tsp olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

300 g brown shrimps peeled

1 lemon

1 unwaxed or organic orange

15g fresh chives or basil (optional)

Peel the shallots and cut them into very fine dice.  Peel and crush the garlic.  Work it into a paste with a little salt in a mortar.  Warm a large frying pan over a low flame.  Cook the shallots and garlic in 50 g of the butter.  Add the nutmeg, mace and cayenne and cook the shallots and garlic until softened and slightly translucent without colouring.  Set aside to cool.

Place 200 g of butter in a heat-proof dish and into a low oven, about 38°C / 100°F / gas 1/8 and heat gently to separate out the milky impurities.  The milk fat will settle to the bottom.  Once the butter is melted, remove it from the oven, pour the clear yellow liquid into a small glass.  Discard the white milky solids.  Heat olive oil and remaining butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat.  Season the shrimps well with plenty of salt and pepper and cook in the hot oil until they turn a darker brown.  Cook only until the colour changes, about 1-2 minutes.  Spoon the shrimps into a large bowl.  Fold in the cooled shallot-garlic mixture.  Squeeze the lemon and add the juice.  Wash the orange, grate in half the zest.  The combination of citrus fruit gives a well balanced sweet/tart flavour and also goes particularly well with mace and nutmeg.  Wash and blot the chives and basil if you are using them, chop them finely and fold them into the shrimps.  Chives complement the shallot, whilst basil adds a pleasant astringency to the richness of the butter.  They are by no means traditional, but delicious nonetheless.

Transfer shrimps to a serving vessel or individual ramekins and pack in tightly.  Pour the clarified butter over the shrimp mixture and stir well to disperse the butter and coat the shrimps.  Some butter will be floating on top of the shrimps, which is what you want.  This thin layer will act as a preservative.  Chill well for a minimum of 4 hours.  It is best served 'spreading' consistency so allow a good hour of sitting at room temperature before eating.  Serve on granary or sourdough bread.