Philippa James reveals the history of potted shrimp and a recipe for Pancakes with salmon and shrimp
PUBLISHED: 16:53 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:40 20 February 2013
Cookery editor Philippa James reveals the potted history of a coastal treat and delicious recipe for Pancakes with salmon and shrimp
I cant say that Come over and peel my shrimps is the most romantic chat-up line, but it seemed to work for Jim Peet, some 45 years ago! Elizabeth, who met Jim at the tender age of 16 but was forbidden to marry until she was 21, confided that until she met Jim she didnt even know what a shrimp was.
She does now though. Elizabeth became part of a thriving cottage industry where stay-at-home mums would separate the shells from the meat. It wasnt so bad, she said. We could chat, while we worked.
For Jim, it all started at Rose Cottage, in Banks, from where his grandfather went out hawking with a horse and cart, supplementing his income with farm labouring in the spring and summer but, in the autumn and winter he would make Jims father and his five brothers go shrimping, having a ready-made work-force of shrimp-shellers back at home, with five daughters!
When he was about 10 Jim started to collect shrimps with his Dad and returned to shrimping in the 1970s when times were hard in the construction industry. Jim diversified into agricultural engineering as well but in the 80s the numbers of badgers - the local term for the people who would take and process the shrimps - declined dramatically so Jim looked into how he could start to pot his own product.
As we chatted a revelation unfurled which Jim said still makes his skin crawl and his heart race. On one shrimping mission he failed to put the sneck down on the lock which held back the door to the rig. Somehow the frames of the nets fell against the door, slamming it shut.
He was heading out to sea, in deepening waters, trapped in the cabin, with no exit. As panic mounted he considered trying to slam his weight against the solid metal door, but realised this would be useless. With time and tide now against him, he started to strip off his oil-skins, then his boiler suit, and managed to squeeze his arm through a tiny hole.
He reached the gear stick which he knocked into neutral, then he grabbed the steering wheel and managed to turn the rig in a big arc back towards the shore. What flabbergasted me was Elizabeths calm response to this tale: Eeeee, Jim, you never told me about that!
The brown shrimps are caught and washed in either sea water or, preferably, with a dash back to the house, in fresh water, then boiled as quickly as possible. They are then air-cooled and chilled within 30 minutes of being cooked.
Jim has invested in state of the art shrimp-shelling technology which has taken many years to design, a Uni Shrimp from Holland, an amazing machine that picks up four shrimps at a time with a mini vacuum and slits and peels them before they go on to another machine where they are graded for size.
From here Jim cooks them in spices and pure butter and has won a Fine Food Award for his Southport Potted Shrimps where they were described by Edwin Booth as A nice blend of good quality shrimps, spices and butter, everything a good potted shrimp should be.
These scrumptious delicacies are available in the finest of our fish mongers, including Wesley Fisheries in Southport and Wellgate Fisheries
The dangers of shrimping
The world of shrimping is a dangerous place; I listened in horror as one of Jims formerly regular shrimpers, 83-year-old Gerald Rimmer, told me of the time his family were called to the local hospital, anticipating the worst.
His oil-skin caught in the drive-shaft of his wagon, leaving him with serious damage to his ribs, spleen, and liver, following him being dragged into the machinery. Amazingly Gerald survived and 20 years on still does some shrimping, when hes not playing trombone in the village brass band, at Banks.
Shrimping is very much in the blood, Gerald, whose wife Jean had a stall on Blackburn market for 35 years, selling shrimps, prawns and salads, said it dated back through to his great grandfather whose record catch was 200lb in one day, that would be worth around 1,600 now.
But Gerald said: Youd struggle to make a decent living now, the coast has changed. In the 1940s there were 50 shrimpers working the coast, now only around eight go out.
Pancakes with salmon and shrimps
8 Pancakes (100g/4oz Plain flour, 250ml/half a pint full milk, 1 medium free range egg, pinch of salt)
2 large, or 4 smaller Salmon fillets, skin on
50g/2oz Cooked shrimps
Small tub of Mornay, or cheese sauce (or make your own)
100g/4oz Grated cheese (I used half Lancashire crumbly and half Double Gloucester)
Fresh parsley or dill, snipped
Salt and black pepper
A splash of full milk
A little butter, to grease the dish
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4
2. Place the salmon, skin side down to protect the fish, in a pan, in enough milk to cover the base of the pan, add a grind of salt and black pepper and cook over a gentle heat until the salmon goes a milky pink colour. Turn off the hob, cover the pan and leave to cool
3. Once the fillets have cooled enough to handle, remove from the skin and divide the fish, checking for bones, between the eight pancakes
4. Onto each pancake, add a few shrimps, a drizzle of the cooking milk, just to dampen, some parsley and roll into a loose Swiss roll shape, tucking in the ends
5. Place into a buttered oven-proof dish with the seam underneath so the filling doesnt escape. (If using potted shrimps, you can use the butter off the top to grease the dish). Once all eight are in the dish, cover thinly with the sauce, season lightly, sprinkle with the cheese and pop into the oven for about 25 minutes until the dish is golden and bubbling.
Dust the top with more parsley or dill as you remove from the oven.
Serve with new season vegetables, lightly boiled, or steamed.