It has been ages since I last wrote up a recipe, it's not that I've been abstaining from cooking, I just forgot my USB cable whilst on holiday in Devon......doh!
My philosophy on holiday cooking is not to plan meals, just keep your eyes open for great local ingredients and throw something together on the spur of the moment. I was down on the beach in a little fishing village when a boat came in with a box of still flapping plaice. I'm not sure I have ever bought a fish that was still alive but clearly it could not be fresher or more local - I had to have one.
This is not a particularly innovative dish, I have seen this on the menu of more than one gastropub. It is however a winner - tasty, really easy to make and it allows the key ingredients to shine, namely the beautiful fresh fish. Brown shrimp have a wonderful flavour and are available in little packs in all large supermarkets - these are used in the famous Morecambe Bay potted shrimps, hence the title. For two:
Plaice - 1kg. Ask your fishmonger to gut it and remove the head and frills
Brown shrimp - 100g
Butter - 100g
Garlic - 1 small clove, peeled and finely grated
Cayenne Pepper - a good pinch
Ground mace - a good pinch
White pepper - a good pinch
Grated zest of half a lemon and a squeeze of the juice.
A small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked from stems
Heat your oven to 220c. Give the fish a good wash, particularly the gut cavity. Remove any roe and scrape out any blood around the spine near where the head used to be. Place on an oven tray dark side up, and chuck it in the oven. No need to skin, as it is much easier to remove once the fish is cooked.
Melt the butter over a gentle heat and add the garlic, lemon zest, pepper and spices and a pinch of salt. Allow the flavours to warm and get to know one another, but don't boil the butter.
Depending on the size and thickness of the fish, it should take somewhere between 12 and 15 mins to cook. An easy way to check is to try and tease off a little flesh from the bone at the thickest part of the fish. If it comes away easily and the flesh at the bone is white and not translucent, then the fish is cooked.
Quickly warm the shrimp in the butter - they are cooked already so don't over cook. The skin should have split and be starting to peel off, gently remove it then transfer the whole fish to a warmed serving plate. Top generously with the shrimp butter and a handful of parsley. Serve with some simply boiled potatoes and some seasonal green vegetables to soak up all that butter.