I am extremely fond of a good potted shrimp, which is becoming more and more difficult to find. As often as not it turns out to be a potted prawn, which is not the same thing at all. They must be those tiny little brown creatures, so if you ever find them south of Morecambe seize and pot them. They will keep well and can, of course, be frozen.
If the shrimps are frozen, defrost slowly and completely, draining and drying off with paper towels. To clarify the butter, put it in a small saucepan and heat slowly to boiling point. Let it bubble for a few seconds, then strain through a small sieve lined with butter muslin, into a bowl. Leave it to cool and then chill until set.
Tip the butter out of the bowl and scrape off any sediment clinging to the bottom. Put the butter in a bowl set over simmering water. Add the bayleaf, nutmeg or mace, and black pepper and salt to taste. When melted add the shrimps and gently mix everything together. Leave over the heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bayleaf, and spoon the shrimps into a straight-sided dish or individual ramekins. They should be just covered by the butter. Leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator.
Serve, sprinkled with cayenne pepper, as a first course with warm brown toast and butter and lemon wedges. The shrimps will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator, or 2 weeks if totally sealed with more clarified butter.
© 1996 Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright estate. All rights reserved.