Potted shrimp is a concept which knows its origins in the North-West of England. It normally sees shrimps added to a pot before nutmeg seasoned melted butter is poured over them to cover and the combination is left to set. Like so many food creations of yesteryear, this idea evolved as a preservation technique with the fat keeping the shrimps fresh and edible for longer. In this potted shrimp variation, a stock laced with gelatin is used instead of the butter to help create very different flavors and textures, as well as a dish considerably lower in fat and cholesterol.
A simple fish stock would work very well in this recipe but the stock used in this instance was lobster stock which had been reserved and frozen following the earlier preparation of Potted Lobster Tail. The potting accompaniment ingredients are almost infinitely variable and these ideas could simply be viewed as suggestions rather than a hard and fast recipe guide.
To make these four little potted shrimp pots, I used 4 ounces (¼ pound) of precooked brown shrimp and four, three inch diameter porcelain ramekins. The first step was to divide the shrimp in to the required portions. Instead of four equal parts, I wanted one of the pots to have twice as much as the other three as this pot was simply going to include the shrimp, some stock and seasoning with no further additions.
The best way to measure out the shrimp is to actually use the ramekins in which they will subsequently be potted. It is also easier if you have the shrimp and accompaniments ready to go before you start preparing the stock and gelatin.
Plain Potted Shrimp
Put the measured out shrimp in to a small bowl. Add a generous pinch of dried basil and black pepper. Stir carefully but well and return to the ramekin.
Chinese Themed Potted Shrimp
Crustaceans - more particularly prawns - are very popular in Chinese cuisine so this simple yet tasty Oriental twist worked very well.
As well as the shrimp, this combination calls for one small pak choi (Chinese cabbage) leaf, quarter a small onion and a generous pinch of Chinese 5 spice.
Finely dice the pak choi leaf and onion and place them in a small bowl along with the shellfish. Season with the 5 spice and stir to combine.
Indian Themed Potted Shrimp
This spicy variety of the concept was prepared with the simple addition of a couple of traditional Indian cooking ingredients.
You will need half a medium sized red chili or a whole small one, a teaspoon of freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf) and some black pepper.
Remove the seeds and membrane from the half chili and finely dice before stirring together with the shrimp, cilantro and black pepper.
Spanish Themed Potted Shrimp
In keeping with the established international theme, this variation has a distinctly Spanish twist.
You will need a one inch wide strip of red bell pepper, the same quantity of yellow pepper and about quarter a teaspoon of paprika.
Finely dice the pepper strips and mix them in a bowl with the shrimp and paprika.
When the ramekins were refilled with the shrimp and their accompaniments, they were sat on a holding plate for later transfer to the fridge.
How to Make the Fish Stock Jelly
Gelatin comes in powdered/crystalline and leaf form. If using the leaf gelatin as in this instance, you will probably need to soak the leaves briefly in cold water before use. Check the pack for guidance. You also want to use a little bit extra for your quantity of liquid than the instructions recommend to ensure a good set. Roughly a quarter to a third again is ideal.
Pour a half pint of stock in to a saucepan and heat until it just begins to simmer. Take it off the heat before you add the gelatin. If the gelatin boils, it may not set properly. When you do add the gelatin, stir and keep stirring until you can see it is all dissolved. Leave for about fifteen minutes to partly cool. You don't want it so hot that it further cooks the shrimp but equally, you don't want it starting to set before it is poured in to the ramekins.
Pour the stock in to a jug (to make it easier to add to the ramekins) and fill each ramekin up almost but not quite to the top, ensuring all solid parts are covered. Place in your fridge for a minimum two or three hours until set. Overnight is better.
Plain Potted Shrimp with Toast
Hot buttered toast is a very simple but popular accompaniment to potted shrimp and it was in this way the plain shrimp was served.
Simply make the toast, butter it and use a teaspoon to spoon little amounts of the shrimp at a time on to the toast to form a mouthful.
Chinese Themed Potted Shrimp with Prawn Crackers
Prawn crackers are popular accompaniments to virtually any type of Chinese meal but are also excellent served with dips, or as in this case, the Chinese themed shrimp pot.
These prawn crackers were bought from a supermarket in a foil pack but they could also be bought from a Chinese restaurant.
A little amount is spooned on to each cracker before the cracker is popped whole in to the mouth.
Indian Themed Shrimp with Naan Breads
There are a variety of Indian breads which could be made to accompany the Indian spiced shrimp. Breads such as chapatis or parathas would work very well but naan was the option chosen in this instance.
These supermarket bought mini naan breads were available in a variety of flavors, with garlic and cilantro (coriander) being the option chosen.
A couple of naan breads were heated by following the instructions on the pack before being halved and served alongside the shrimp pot.
Spanish Themed Potted Shrimp on Spicy Potato Cakes
This serving suggestion requires a bit more preparation time but proved more than worth the effort. These little spicy potato cakes are based very loosely on a Spanish tortilla which sees chunks of potato and onion set in a thick omelet.
To make the potato cakes, you will need one medium baking potato, one small onion, one medium size and strength red chili, one small egg, salt and pepper.
Start by peeling the potato and coarsely grating it in to the center of a clean dishtowel.
Gather up the edges of the dishtowel to enclose the potato and take it to your sink. Squeeze as much of the water out of the potato as you can. This is essential or the water will escape during cooking and prevent your cakes from setting.
Put the potato in to a large bowl. Peel and finely dice the onion before adding it to the bowl with the seeded and finely diced chili. Break in the egg and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the ingredients together very well with a wooden spoon until everything is fully combined.
Pour enough olive oil in to a non-stick pan or skillet to cover the base and bring it up to a medium to high heat. Use a large spoon to add the batter in two portions to the pan. In the early stages of cooking, some of the egg may leak from the cakes but this can be eased back in to the main bodies with the edge of a spatula. Fry for five or six minutes on a medium heat.
After five or six minutes, turn the cakes carefully with your spatula and fry for a similar length of time on the second sides.
Lift the cooked potato cakes briefly to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain before transferring them to a serving plate.
Half the pot of Spanish themed shrimp can be spooned and spread on to each warm cake.