Fanny Cradock’s Shrimp Cocktail

Fanny's Shrimp Cocktail"One of the most sordid little offerings is the ubiquitous Prawn Cocktail with a good old ground padding of lettuce cut with a knife and darkening at the edges, a tired prawn drooping disconsolately over the edge of the glass like a debutante at the end of her first ball and its opposite number – a piece of lemon tasting of the knife – clutching the opposite side of the rim like a seasick passenger against a taffrail during a rough Channel crossing. This kind of presentation almost invariably confirms that the mayonnaise will be that bottled stuff, further sharpened by bottled tomato sauce, that the incidence of prawns will be low, of over-cooked diced potatoes high, whereas if we have not put you off them for life by this time, Prawn Cocktail can be delicious." Fanny Cradock

She had a way with words. Fanny is occasionally credited with inventing the prawn cocktail. This isn’t the case, as it was around for some years before Fanny’s recipe appeared in 1967. In fact, Annie Walker, a character known for her delusions of grandeur, mentioned it during an episode of Coronation Street in 1962.

After becoming associated with suburban 1970s dinner parties, the prawn cocktail became distinctly uncool in the 1980s. Fortunately, it’s made a successful comeback. Fanny certainly did much to popularise the prawn cocktail in the Sixties.

Here she uses shrimps, and this recipe is taken verbatim from her booklet: Ten Classic Dishes.

Shrimp Cocktail
Ingredients for 2 persons:
Heart of lettuce
4 oz. fresh, freshly shelled shrimps
2 oz. small diced cucumber with the skin left on
2 oz. mayonnaise
few drops Tabasco
1 teasp. tomato puree
2-3 drops Worcestershire sauce
1 teasp. strained lemon juice
very thinly sliced cucumber rounds
finely chopped chives
1 teasp. dry sherry
1 teasp. single cream
1 chopped hard boiled egg
shelled prawns with heads left on for garnish


Tear the lettuce leaves and use the pieces to line the base and sides of chosen individual containers. Mix together the shrimps, cucumber dice, hard boiled egg, mayonnaise, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, strained lemon juice, cream and sherry. Place half this mixture in each lettuce-lined container. Sprinkle lightly with paprika, then with chives and drive one or more shelled prawns with heads left on, tails downwards, into centres. Fringe each container with the cucumber slices.

Ten Classic Dishes with a menu for each by Fanny Cradock

As the title suggests, Fanny details ten different menu options for a starter, main and dessert. Her Shrimp Cocktail is followed by Beefsteak and Kidney Pudding and Pie, with Mum’s Trifle to finish.

As I don’t have the time to attempt the whole menu in one go, my intention is to do each dish separately. I’ll try the Beefsteak and Kidney Pudding next, and I may get to the trifle in time for Christmas!

The shrimp cocktail was delicious, although I must confess I left out one ingredient, which was the dry sherry. It still tasted great without it. My one regret is that I didn’t make a lemon basket to go with my shrimp cocktail. It’s not mentioned in Ten Classic Dishes but is a feature of Fanny’s prawn cocktail recipes in her other books.

Now I’ve seen the instructions for making a lemon basket I feel it's something I must try. I'm sure no smoked salmon starter is complete without one!

Fanny's Shrimp Cocktails
If you enjoy an old-fashioned starter, here are some of my other attempts to recreate classic hors d'oeuvres – they vary in degrees of healthiness and tastiness:

Beetroot Houmous
Sardine Pate
Homemade Houmous
Smoked Salmon Pate
Halloumi Cheese with Rocket Pesto