We pass through the Peak District. The hills are heavy with damp. The train stops at yet another Northern mill town on its long journey back to Norwich.
I always do my best thinking on long train journeys, especially once the view fades into black and my reflection is the only thing staring back. Apart from the trials and tribulations of finding a new job and a new flat for the new year, right now I’m thinking about potted shrimp.
We decided to make it for starters on Christmas Eve, alongside mackerel pate and a pile of homemade melba toasts, and I learned that making potted shrimps is one of the best ways to forget your worries (namely new job, new flat, new year). It’s a therapeutic, unfiddly process that begins with butter.
First take a whole golden brick of the stuff – unsalted, but salted is fine in a pinch – and melt it slowly, stirring far too much with a wooden spoon because let’s be honest, who can resist?
Line the top of a glass or jug with a double layer of kitchen roll (or muslin cloth if you happen to own some). Now it’s time to clarify the butter. Gradually pour the molten liquid into the glass, allowing the filtered butter to drip through the sodden kitchen towel. Before long you’ll have a glass of golden clarified butter.
Return the butter to a pan and heat slowly with a couple of bay leaves, a grating of nutmeg or mace and plenty of pepper. Infuse for a few minutes, before adding the salty, sweet, woefully expensive brown shrimp.
Fill eight ramekins with your shrimp and allow to cool before pouring over the remaining butter. And there you go, a potted shrimp recipe for Christmas, New Year and everything to come.
Have a good one, friends – I’ll see you in January.