I’ve always nursed a passion for these tiny crustacea ever since they proved so amenable to being caught in the murky sea on family holidays at Middleton-on-Sea when I was a boy. The only time this passion really found full expression was during my days at Lancaster University. Back then Lancaster had a superlative food market. Among the market fixtures was a shrimp stall at which two ladies with massive forearms and hands like crabs would peal the morning’s catch of brown shrimps from Morecambe Bay with a speed, delicacy and dexterity which baffled the eye while nattering companionably to each other. A quick, rhythmical flock of the fingers, it seemed, and the shells would fall one way and the tiny curled bodies would join a small hillock the other. I would buy two plastic bags of a few ounces each, one to eat as I made my way back to my flat, and the other to eat when I got there. Ah, me. Heady days.
These days these dainty pearls of seafood are rather more expensive and need fleshing out, as it were, to make a snack or a first course. I buy little 90g plastic containers of North Sea Brown Shrimps in Waitrose. They come from Holland, and while they lack the vivid sweetness of memory, they’re not bad. It’s just a pity we don’t do them ourselves.
2 90g packs of brown shrimps
2 medium, very ripe tomatoes
2 sticks of celery (inner part)
½ stubby ridged cucumber
1 bunch chives
Juice of ½ lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Deseed the tomatoes, but don’t peel. Peel and deseed the cucumber. Dice the tomatoes, cucumber and celery finely. Chop the chives. Mix altogether together. Add the shrimps and mix again. Add lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper. Pile onto 4 plates and anoint with a little olive oil. Serve with thinly sliced toast.