Friday, 11 April 2014

Cocktail Shaker!

Gamberi, Finocchio & Avocado, e Salsa di Paprika Affumicata & Yogurt
Shrimp, Fennel & Avocado with Smoked Paprika Yogurt Dressing

With the onset of Spring and the thought of Summer, our thoughts also turn to favorite dishes for parties and and invites for friends, for lighter,  brighter dishes and relaxed evenings in company. At the same time, it is sometimes a challenge to make something that everyone is going to enjoy...

...and what do we do when we can't think something impressive enough to make us feel special but accessible enough that everyone is going to enjoy it? That's right... we go back to the roots and make classic dishes that everyone knows and loves. Don't we?

Well, yes, usually we do. Or we make a variation on a theme of some tried and tested crowd-pleaser or other. Which is basically what this is- a re-vamped and revitalized version of that 1970's favorite, the prawn cocktail.

I made mine from a small fennel bulb, a lovely, ripe avocado, 9-10 shrimps, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a lighter and yummier cocktail sauce made from yogurt, lemon juice, Spring onion and smoked paprika powder for a rich and amazingly tasty twist. 

Make sure to use nice, buttery-smooth ripe avocados if you can- they absorb flavors much better and are simply much milder and delicious. Halve them, discard the stone and use a tablespoon to scoop them out of the shell- a very easy method and a guaranteed good result :-)

Next, get busy chopping! Finely slice the Spring onion and a little lemon zest for the dressing and then halve the cherry tomatoes... it is very little prep work but it all helps to let you assemble your dish, so do it in advance and you will then enjoy the actual cooking so much more!

I added the onion, lemon zest and smoked paprika powder to some plain yogurt. Again this is a much lighter sauce than the classic "cocktail sauce" which was made  using mayonnaise and ketchup back in the old days- definitely a total"no-go" for me!

I made mine from 5 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, the juice and zest of half a lemon, 1 Spring onion, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of honey, salt and pepper. Easy. Stir ingredients together, lick your spoon, be happy, put spoon into dishwasher and carry on...

Cut the fennel in half, remove most of stalk end, and then cut into fine wedges... fan out on your serving dish and then cut the avocado, also into slices and lay them out on top. It is all really simple and the result will be super delicious... so what's not to like about it? Nothing! Just fall in love with it and go with the flow!

Next, add a half cherry tomato between each slice of avocado and drizzle with a little of the dressing, add a light sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground pepper- and then decide whether you want to keep it nice and sensible and minimalist as it is- or to go into overdrive...

...which is exactly what I decided to do!

I peeled and cleaned the shrimp, removed the insides and then sautéed them for 2-3 minutes from either side, seasoned with alt and pepper and added the to the fennel and avocado... and things were already looking delicious and yummy!

Cover the avocado in the remaining dressing and sprinkle with a little more of the Spring onion, lemon zest, salt and pepper and then sprinkle liberally with wispy and tender fennel greens for an added blast of fresh flavor... perfect for the Spring or Summer evenings ahead... or even for this one! ;-)

If you are preparing an adult meal you may feel tempted to add a shot of liquor to the dressing. With the classic sauce we would add whiskey, which of course goes really well with the tangy ketchup and helps to cut the fatty flavor of the mayonnaise- but with this "light" version, I would suggest a shot of vodka or Sambuca- something light and refreshing! 

Prawn cocktail has come up to date in this version, is lighter, healthier and more complex in flavor- and that is a good thing! With or without added alcohol, this is a great cocktail of flavors- clean fresh and and a crowd-pleasure for sure!

At least it certainly pleased me this evening! And that's a start at least- haha!

The added crunch of the fennel and the juicy tomatoes are excellent additions to the avocado and dressing- and that smokey paprika  has a bit more "oomph" than ketchup... you're going to like it!  Go ahead, give it a try and enjoy! 

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