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Taste of Europe: Richard Corrigan’s shellfish cocktail

The minute details of this recipe help turn the simplest of pleasures into special ones

Richard Corrigan's shellfish cocktail

On the first day of the Jubilee weekend, I went to Bentley’s, the Mayfair haunt of fame and fortune. Its Irish owner, Richard Corrigan, wasn’t there – he’s busy preparing to open a restaurant in Dublin – but his daughter was, and after she’d smashed a £40 plate by dropping her iPhone, we ate shellfish. She and her colleague had half a dozen oysters, I had two scallops swimming in garlic butter. Some might consider this dish ubiquitous, boring even, but rarely is it done so well and with such purpose.

After dressed crab, lobster and chips we hit the Guinness. And then I supposed I ought to find a recipe to celebrate the place in this newspaper. The restaurant has been there since 1916 after all and the weather now is
perfect for shellfish and all its accompaniments. We are, after all, but prawns in the sun.

Typically, Corrigan doesn’t do things by half-measure. His shellfish cocktail
is not only of prawns, shredded lettuce, and Marie Rose sauce. There is nothing wrong with this combination – it is delicious. But the chef here feels the need to go beyond, adding white crab meat, cooked lobster tails, and brown shrimp to both Dublin Bay prawns and the little fellas fished out of the wide Atlantic.

Pay attention, too, to the homemade cocktail sauce, where brandy and plenty of Tabasco are called upon. The headier and spicier the better if you
ask me. Then the cucumber, which adds further crunch and texture. Mix
the seafood together or don’t.

In his recipe, you’ll also notice Corrigan references the great Simon
Hopkinson, who recommends using a little cottage cheese in the sauce to
lighten it up and make it less cloying. These minute details fascinate me –
they help turn the simplest of pleasures into special ones. Often they happen to be obvious, too, but I’d not heard of doing this until now. Happy eating.

SHELLFISH COCKTAIL

SERVES 4

Ingredients:

A mixture of seafood; picked white crab meat; Dublin Bay prawns; Atlantic prawns, the pink ones; cooked lobster tails; brown shrimps, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 baby gem lettuce
1 small cucumber peeled, deseeded and diced
For the cocktail sauce:
2 parts mayonnaise
1 part tomato ketchup
A splash of brandy
A dash of Tabasco sauce
A pinch of paprika
A squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

The quantities of seafood you use are up to you: just try to get a good mix of
everything. How much sauce you make is really up to you too. Keep tasting it, and adjust until it makes you smile. Simon Hopkinson had a nice idea of mixing a little cottage cheese into a cocktail sauce; it lightens it up a bit and makes it less cloying, but you just know that no one has ever come up with anything as good.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. Take four old-fashioned
cocktail glasses. Season all the seafood with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and a drop of lemon juice.

To assemble, put some lettuce and cucumber at the bottom of the glass, which will give a lovely crunch, then layer up your seafood, put a dollop of
sauce on top and let people mix everything up, or keep everything separate, as they choose.

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