Dutch Food: Shrimp Cocktail

The Netherlands and the North Sea are famous for seafood specialities, namely mussels, shrimp and herring. Before I wrote about mussels and herring, and now I will write about the famous and delicious brown shrimp, caught in the North Sea. They are always small and brown in colour (hence the name). They are quite different from all the pink shrimp/prawns/scampi/etc;  they smell creamy and sweet, taste nutty and sweet, quite pronounced in comparison to pink shrimp, and they have a firm but tender texture.

Usually the shrimp are washed, boiled and cooled on board of the ship that caught them, so almost all shrimp you buy are cooked. Usually they are peeled as well, unfortunately this does takes some time, which isn’t beneficial for the taste of the shrimp. They also add preservatives that have an effect on the taste.  For the most delicious shrimp you get, you must purchase them directly from the ship or the fishing port, but finding a place that sells shrimp like this can be difficult. Brown shrimp are available through the whole year, but peak availability is in april/may and in autumn. Unfortunately, brown shrimp don’t have an MSC certificate yet, because some important information is not available (the effect of brown shrimp fishing on the ecosystem is being studied at the moment). They aren’t overfished, but there is a lot of by-catch. Fortunately, from a sustainability point of few it is considered acceptable to eat them once in a while. You can use them in hot or cold dishes, but when using in hot dishes, make sure to heat them only very shortly, otherwise they will get tough. The two best things you can make with them, in my opinion, are shrimp cocktail and shrimp croquettes. I’m a firm believer of not messing with the classics, that is why I give you a very classic recipe for shrimp cocktail. Delicious!

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail (serves 4)
Sweet Dutch prawns with a lovely, creamy sauce on a bed of lettuce.

200 g Dutch brown shrimp (peeled and cooked)
few leaves of lettuce (shredded or whole)
4 small lemon wedges (optional)
½ tbsp chopped parsley or a pinch of paprika powder

3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 drop tabasco
2 drops Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp sherry or whisky
salt and pepper

Place lettuce on 4 small plates.
Top lettuce with shrimps.
Make the sauce by combining all ingredients (fold whipped cream in to keep it airy) and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Dollop sauce on top of prawns.
Garnish with lemon and a sprinkling of parsley or paprika powder.

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