ONE of the perks of being a journalist, at least when I did it for a living, was going on a a holiday, hopefully overseas, disguised as a working trip. We called them ‘freebies,’
If you were lucky you took your spouse or partner. Sometimes you went with a group of random journos. Either way you had a good time,
Back in the Nineties I managed to wangle the same trip for at least four years to Calais, organised by the port’s local chamber of commerce.
The idea was to write a story convincing at least some of the holidaymakers who passed through on their way to their various destinations to tarry awhile, perhaps at local attractions, wineshops or restaurants and spend some money.
I don’t know whether it worked but every year I came back with a brightly coloured ‘Via Calais’ tea tray and memories of a meal at the Hotel Atlantic.
It was always the same: heaps of pink, glistening shell-on prawns, crisp baguettes, garlic butter and glasses of crisp white wine. I am a sucker for shelling a pint of prawns, slowly, leisurely, for a hour or so. I can do it in my sleep: twist off the head, pull the tail and shuck off the legs with a thumb.
I like to have it at home, too, perhaps a couple of times a year. Buying the prawns is no problem, finding a decent baguette is impossible.
Not only is it an enjoyable tea but I can look forwards to a fish soup. For the prawn carcases make an ideal stock. Just cover them with water, bring to boil, swim off the scum, add a few vegetables and, voila, the basis for a soup in 30 minutes. These days I usually add the shell of a crab.
Strained, it goes in the freezer to join various bits of fish, usually offcuts from portions I have bought earlier. When I have enough I make fish soup.
There isn’t really a recipe. The ingredients are whatever you have, onions, carrots, celery and potatoes, some garlic, loads of herbs, a grated tomato or two, bay leaf, tomato puree, Thai fish sauce and a spoonful of paprika, seasoning and a squeeze of lemon.When all is cooked add your fish.
It’s the ultimate in waste not- want not cooking, using up scraps to make something delicious. I’ve just had some. It was lovely. Now I am already planning the next prawn tea.