to feel a right prawn – to feel a bit of an idiot, to have realised you have made a visible mistake. For instance: “I only realised when I came home that my trousers had split. I felt a right prawn.” “I have only realised recently that, although I say it all the time, no-one else seems to use the phrase ‘to feel a right prawn’” [two very astute examples, Nicer Kate, and I promise now to stop calling you “a right prawn” every time you use the expression “a right prawn” – Ed]
The prawn cocktail was popularised by the (marvellously named) Fanny Cradock1 in the late 1950s, and it has been a rather typical ‘starter’2 ever since. Perhaps because it has been around for so long as part of our popular culture, and we remember it from our parents’ dinner parties in the 1970s, many people see it as a bit naff3 although there is a sense of it being delightfully, fashionably retro. With this in their minds, some people do try to ‘deconstruct’4 it, or fart about5 adding crab meat or swapping the prawn for lobster, or all sorts of other bloody ridiculous ideas.
As ever, with most British food, if it is made well, it is a brilliant little thing. What’s more, to my mind, no Christmas dinner would be complete without it. I mean, it takes very little time to make, goes very well with the glass of champagne that this chef at least needs to prepare the Christmas dinner, and, because you are the chef, you get to steal a prawn while you’re making it. You have to make sure it isn’t poisoned, after all.6 Don’t you?
- One head of gem lettuce (or iceberg, if you must)
- Cucumber, peeled, diced and the watery bit scraped out
- 4 tbs good mayonnaise
- 2 tbs ketchup
- 250g cooked, peeled prawns
- Paprika or cayenne
- A large, fancy glass each
- Shred the gem lettuce and divide it equally between the glasses
- Mix together the mayonnaise, ketchup and a good shake of tabasco. Taste, and season.
- Mix the prawns into the sauce. Divide between the glasses.
- Sprinkle your choice of paprika or cayenne over the top
- Serve with a wedge of lemon
- Fanny Cradock – the darling of the TV cookery shows. She was one of the first, and brought proper cookery skills to the masses. As she got older, she became more and more eccentric and would often cook in a chiffon ballgown. She is TV Gold. Have a watch.
- Starter – the French call it an hors d’oeuvre. We are simpler folk. The course you start the meal with.
- Naff – something that is a bit useless or passé. We also use the word in a different context ‘naff off’ – a more polite way of saying ‘F*@k Off’. Princess Anne allegedly popularised this phrase by saying it to photographers in the 1970s. Have always liked that woman.
- Deconstructed food – a bit of a pointless waste of time in my opinion, the fashion of taking a perfectly good dish and breaking it down into its component parts to present the dish so that you, as the diner, have to put it back together. Isn’t that the point of the chef? This is a deconstructed prawn cocktail. Do you see my point?
- Fart about with something – muck about with, waste time on something silly. This is a very useful expression.
- Making sure it isn’t ‘off’ or poisoned – don’t be alarmed if you go to someone’s house and they are trying the food beforehand to make sure it isn’t poisoned. They are using it as an excuse to eat half of it before it hits the plate. TV chefs call it ‘tasting’.