Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Low-Carb Lunches 1: Warm Prawn Cocktail

Ahhhh.... there's been a gap. I cannot find the copious notes I made from my UK trip. I haven't quite looked everywhere; I am postponing the crashing disappointment of realising I left them on the plane/taxi/duty free shop. However, they may turn up somewhere utterly unexpected. Like my Foo Fighters Tickets from April 2008. I put them somewhere for safe keeping while we went on holiday to Kota Kinabalu and the floor-sanders were in. I swiftly erased the knowledge from my mind, came back with 18 hours to go before the show and tried to trawl through a house already turned upside down because of the floor-sanding operation. One of my sons found them wedged right at the bottom of a bolster cushion inside the cover. I have eyed him with a shadow of suspicion ever since.

Anyway..... while I was preparing to ransack the soft furnishings I got hungry.
I am trying to reduce my carbohydrate intake to one serving a day. I am vain and slightly more upholstered than muscular and summer is coming. So I looked for lunch-time inspiration to London. Pret a Manger to be precise http://www.pret.com/
Anyone who worked in London in the 90s remembers their first Pret experience. Good bread, good fillings, easy to grab, made you feel like you were a little bit Continental, wrapped in spiffing cellophane so you didn't get grease spots on your desk and most importantly you could be in and out in 6 minutes flat so more time for lunchtime shopping/fags/flirting/shoplifting.

The book of the shop divulges all its secrets.

Not sure if that was an unwise move or a very arrogant one as Pret was so sure they could not be aped. For the eschewer of bread and carbohydrates in the middle of the day the fillings on their own make a wonderful lunch.

The first in the book is egg and bacon mayonnaise but that dish is dead to me ever since I witnessed at first hand the low habits and hygiene of the London pigeon (the Berkley Square mob to be precise), made the fowl/egg connection with the lumps in my sandwich and have never been able to countenance a boiled egg since. Scrambled is fine, it's just the white bit. And what those pigeons were doing to one another. Everyone has their peculiarities, that is one of mine. The next filling is, however, far more appealing; Avocado and Prawn. And since it has no yeasty cover it will be elevated to cocktail status.

The trick with prawn cocktail is not the prawns (in Britain we would use partially defrosted north sea ones and fancy ourselves exotic and erudite). Today I used frozen West Australian prawn flesh at $40 a kilo. I sauteed them in butter and olive oil with some torn kaffir lime leaf, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

The trick is not the salad vegetables, The Pret recipe calls for Cos lettuce leaves for which I substituted skinned Roma Tomatoes. ( reader, I shall admit this to you: I dislike lettuce. Well, I dislike the way I handle it. I 've never been able to treat it properly and nothing lettucey will ever come close to my first French Green Salad served between courses in 1979. I accept the Ponce Rating and I know my limits), half an avocado, paprika and the MAGIC ingredient Marie Rose Sauce.

Marie Rose Sauce or Cocktail Sauce is irresistable to humans. When I worked in backstage catering we would serve up goujons of snapper with slices of lime and a dish of Marie Rose Sauce in which to dip. Next to the Amelia Park Frenched Lamb Cutlets hot off the barbie this was always hands down the most popular item we could serve. Mick Hucknall demanded seconds. Alicia Keys' rhythm section grabbed handfuls. Only Diana Krall would not weaken. And the secret is ...... homemade mayonnaise, worcester sauce and tomato ketchup.

I made mine thus:
1 egg yolk
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
a squeeze of lemon juice
a few drops of balsamic vinegar
10 mls extra virgin olive oil
20 mls peanut oil
dash of worcestershire sauce
good glug of Heinz tomato ketchup

Coax forth the mayo in the bowl with much patience and elbow grease, then stir in the last two ingredients. It should glow like a the flush of a lover and hold its shape like jelly.

Unfortunately I chose the rubbery- soft kind of avo and decided it would be better off having a tumble in the saute pan with the prawns along with the skinned roma tomato and the shredded basil I substituted for the Pret recipe paprika. The gentle heat really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

It had texture, flavour, softness and crunch and most importantly of all enough Marie Rose Sauce to lick out of the dish for the finale.

OK, now where DID I put those notes? There are no curtains in my house so I don't have to scrabble behind any pelmets....