The ultimate prawn cocktail
- April 2020
- Serves 4
- Hands on time 20 min
The British version of the prawn cocktail has been in and out of fashion ever since the 1960s. It’s the small details that make all the difference; here’s our ultimate prawn cocktail recipe with just the right amount of oomph.
Fancy something else? Check out our lime and basil prawn cocktail salad.
- 28.3g (2.1g saturated)
- 4.8g (4.8g sugars)
- 200g sustainable frozen raw tigeror king prawns, defrosted
- Splash dry vermouth – we used Noilly Prat (or use dry white wine)
- 150g quality shop-bought mayonnaise
- 1½ tbsp tomato ketchup
- Juice 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or use 2-3 shakes Tabasco sauce), plus extra to garnish
- 100g frozen cooked peeled Atlantic (cold water) prawns, defrosted
- 2 little gem lettuces, leaves separated and any large leaves torn
- 4 radishes, finely sliced
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- A few freshly snipped chives
- 4 cooked shell-on prawns to garnish(optional)
- Buttered brown bread to serve
- In a non-stick frying pan, cook the raw tiger/king prawns in a splash of vermouth/wine for a few minutes until opaque/pink and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- In a medium bowl, mix the mayo, ketchup, lemon juice, cayenne and a pinch of salt and black pepper (see Make Ahead). Stir in the cold water prawns and most of the tiger/king prawns, along with any juices from the pan.
- Divide the lettuce and radishes among 4 cocktail glasses or small bowls, then top with the sauce-covered prawns. Top with the reserved prawns, spring onion and chives, then hook an unpeeled prawn over the rim of each glass, if you like. Sprinkle with extra cayenne and serve with lemon wedges and buttered brown bread triangles
The mayo: classic recipes for marie rose sauce call for homemade mayonnaise, but these days you can buy good quality stuff. We used Stokes Real Mayonnaise, available in larger supermarkets.
The ketchup: you might not think of yourself as a red sauce person but it’s essential here – the tangy sweetness blends with the creamy mayo to perfection.
Cayenne pepper over Tabasco: Tabasco is fantastic in many settings (particularly tomato salsa), but the cayenne here adds a smoky rather than
fruity heat that cuts through the creaminess of the mayonnaise perfectly.
The prawns: you need to buy the best quality. We used a mixture of the tiny North Atlantic prawns and meatier tiger/king prawns to add textural interest, but you can choose whatever prawns you like – just avoid the watery ones in plastic packs, and check they’re sustainable.
Make the sauce up to a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge. Stir the prawns into the sauce to serve
The forerunner of the prawn cocktail – with a punchier sauce – was invented in California in the 19th century. Later during Prohibition, the redundant cocktail glasses were put to use as a fancy receptacle for the popular dish.
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