Sunday, 8 May 2011
A Superior Swedish Shrimp Sandwich
Piercingly clear air. Baskingly warm sunshine. An almost un-Scandinavian feeling of camaraderie. Smiling faces sipping coffee. Children let loose from their reins. Beseandled feet. The most enchanting day so far of 2011.
I rarely get a weekend to myself in Gothenburg. So when they pop up I tend to try to indulge in all the things I love about this city. After a stimulating swim and sauna I tend to head to the fish church to stock up on seafood for the week ahead.
I always have my eye out for something a bit different and today an array of corral red shrimps caught my eye. They made the standard prawns look beige by comparison. The fishmonger explained that they were Scandinavia’s version of the King Prawn (Kungsräkor), from the deep chilly waters off the West Coast of Sweden and Norway. He said that they aren’t much known about and have a more lobstery taste than standard prawns. Interestingly, they very proudly display their provenance – indicating that these were from the waters around Styrsö and were caught at a depth of 280 metres. For those of you who thought that prawns were prawns, think again. They take their shellfish so seriously over here that they don’t just tell you where they were from, but also how deep they were caught.
Feeling more than a little bit giddy about the thought of eating my Kungsräkor (King Prawns) I quickly decided that they would make the perfect jewels in a regal shrimp sandwich. I picked up some glasört (samphire) and then headed off to my favourite café and baker (Da Matteo) where I found an exquisite loaf of rye sourdough that seemed to weigh as much as an ingot of gold. A slurp of their amazing cappuccino and a naughty chocolate croissant restored my energy levels and sent me speeding back on my bike to my apartment.
I inspected my Swedish Shellfish bible by Leif Mannerström and found a recipe for Shrimp Sandwiches. I loosely followed his advice but broke two of his golden rules – I switched the homemade mayonnaise for crème fraiche and tossed aside his dictat to only ever consider using soft white bread. I also added samphire and avocado to make it more indulgent. But the rest of the recipe isn’t far off. And it Is in line with his simple, rustic and honest approach so I am sure he wouldn’t shot at me too much. And to appease him further I kept the shells as he implores and made them into an incredibly rich stock.
500g of Kungsräkor with roe
3 slices of rye bread
3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
Wedge of lemon
Handful of blanched samphire
Salt and pepper
Peel the prawns and chuck the shells into the pan you’ll make your stock in later. Plop the roe into a separate bowl. It’s a bit fiddly because the shells are thinner and more clingy than normal prawns, but it’s quite therapeutic.
Slice the rye bread and smear with crème fraiche. Lay the samphire on top and then create a layer of prawns that look as though they are spooning each other. Arrange some salad leaves around the outside, lob on a few slices of avocado and radish. Then finish it off with a smattering of lemon and a gung ho scattering of salt and pepper. Then anoint with the crimson roe.
In Sweden you can barely move for shrimp sandwiches. But it's hard to find a really good one. Too often there's too much mayonnaise and the prawns are tasteless. But not so here. The rye sourdough added texture, sweetness and acidity which helped to make the special shrimps taste even more of themselves. And the radishes and samphire, inspired by our trip to Aamanns in Copenhagen, turned this from being a standard shrimp sandwich into a superior shrimp sandwich.