Potted shrimp is a traditional British dish that is undergoing something of a revival recently. In a previous post I explained how clarified butter is made by melting butter and removing the milk solids because they spoil faster than the butter itself. The process of potting using clarified butter is a way of preserving foods; A crust of clarified butter seals the top of the pot to keep bacteria at bay thus preserving the food underneath.
Traditionally, potted shrimp are lightly seasoned using spices such as pepper, nutmeg and mace and served cold with hot toast. I thought I would create a version using more traditional, but still subtle, Indian spices.
Given that you are likely to be eating this dish within a day or so of preparing it, I haven’t used enough clarified butter to create a crust but there is enough to provide a decadent spread of butter on your hot toast; Feel free to add more if you wish. Theoretically you could just use butter and skip the clarification steps (steps 3 to 6) but for me the smooth texture and the slightly nutty flavour of clarified butter make the small amounts of effort worth the time. I’ve been eating these potted shrimp with rye bread but I’m sure they would be fantastic with a warm baguette or toasted whole grain bread.
Serves 2-4 (depending on whether you are serving as a light snack or a starter)
- 50 grams unsalted butter
- 1 dried red chilli
- 2 black peppercorns
- 4 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
- 1 star anise
- 150 grams raw, peeled prawns
- 0.5 tablespoon lemon juice
- 0.5 teaspoon salt
- A little chopped coriander
- Melt the butter in a saucepan using a medium heat.
- Add the red, chilli, black peppercorns, curry leaves and star anise to the melted butter and continue to heat to infuse the spices. It will splutter but if it is so violent that the butter is jumping out of the pan, turn the heat down a little.
- You will see the whey proteins start to form a skin on the top of the melted butter. Don't stir it as it will recombine with the melted butterfat.
- When the whey proteins have formed a white frothy top turn up the heat. Do not stir the clarified butter.
- After a while you will see the milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan and turn a golden brown colour. Use a spoon to move away the whey proteins so that you can see what is happening underneath.
- When the liquid under the froth has turned a clear amber colour turn off the heat. This is an indication that all of the water has evaporated. Keep an eye on the ghee as it is possible to burn it during this stage. It should smell like butter rather than roasted nuts and shouldn't turn a brown colour.
- Let the pan cool a little (it should still be liquid) and then skim off the whey solids and spices and discard them.
- Strain the butter fat into a container leaving behind the milk solids which can then be discarded (although some people view them as a delicacy).
- Put half of the spiced clarified butter back in the saucepan and reheat using a low temperature (the clarified butter remaining in the container will be used later to seal the pots).
- Add the prawns, lemon juice and salt to the clarified butter and leave to cook for 5 minutes or until the prawns have just turned pink.
- Spoon into two ramekins and gently flatten the top. Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Now melt the reserved spiced clarified butter and pour over the the contents of the ramekins.
- Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Just before serving garnish with a little chopped coriander.