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I love making this recipe for a punchy and vibrant Mexican Prawn Cocktail (or Mexican Shrimp Cocktail for my friends across the pond!) with cubes of creamy avocado, a spicy V8 juice dressing and lots of fresh lime as a light starter before a American-inspired meal.
When I was clearing out the fridge, freezer and cupboards in the shared apartment in Los Angeles rented when I went to UCLA for some reason I had an awful lot of frozen prawns to get through. One of the recipes that resulted from this great clear out was my Breaded Prawns with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce. As a result, I ate an awful lot of prawn cocktail salads for dinner. It was when I found myself explaining to my roommates what on earth I was doing mixing ketchup and mayo to make Marie Rose did I discover that the American idea of a ‘prawn cocktail’ was a tabasco spiked tomato sauce number, where you dipped the prawns in the sauce. I dismissed the idea, until I found a classic Mexican Prawn Cocktail with a complex, chipotle-tomato sauce, juicy chunks of fresh tomato and creamy cubes of avocado in Rick Stein’s latest book Road To Mexico (ad).
As Cinco de Mayo falls next Saturday which is prime time for a party, as I mentioned the other day I envisage these as the starter as part of a Cinco de Mayo spread: start with a pitcher of the Cucumber & Jalapeño Margaritas I shared on Monday, some of my Homemade Pico de Gallo Salsa, Boozy Guacamole and Homemade Tortilla Chips (all from my book Student Eats #ad) as your guests arrive, followed by these prawn cocktails, then a spread of different things to load up tortillas with to accompany my Homemade Chicken Fajitas (I really want to try Kate’s Easy Refried Beans), before polishing everything off with either the Easy Lime Cheesecake Cups from my book, or just a big tropical fruit salad tossed with lime juice and sprinkled with chilli powder.
Also, a few notes on the cookbook I adapted this recipe from (the original was excellent, but a little more ingredient intensive than I try and make recipes for you guys!) As an Ebury author (who also own BBC Books) I’m lucky to be sent an awful lot of free copies their new cookery releases each cycle, so I’ve actually had a copy of this at home since it was published – I also managed to catch a bit of the series too – and I’d been excited for it since Rick himself told me it was coming at Ebury’s summer party last year. I fell in love with Mexican flavours living in Los Angeles, so a book that took us down the West Coast from San Francisco, through L.A. and deep into Mexico was always going to be at the top of my wish list.
Believe it or not, I’ve never actually owned a Mexican cookbook, and as ever, what I love about Rick’s books (as well as the always stunning photography and seriously underrated food and travel writing) is the recipes are easy to follow with delicious and pretty foolproof results, and it is pretty obvious from just skimming the recipe if anyone can manage the dish or it involves any specialist skills (but nothing an enthusiastic home cook would not have picked up somewhere already!) However, the one thing I’d say is different about this book is for a majority of the recipes, you will have to plan ahead and hunt down a lot of the ingredients to get authentic flavours. I’ve not had much trouble sourcing almost everything from Whole Foods if you’re lucky enough to live in London, but most of the products I get from there are from the Cool Chile Co., which you can shop online. If you live in the UK, you should be able to make any of the recipes in the book using Google and your local supermarket.
As well as these Mexican Prawn Cocktails, so far I’ve also made Tacos al Pastor: doner pork tacos with pineapple and salsa (these were lovely, but if you have a tiny London kitchen like me and a cat that means you can’t open the windows very far do save these for the barbecue – I set off my smoke alarm twice!), and the Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde, which while fiddly, are my new favourite Mexican dish ever. You see, I’d never had an enchilada before, because I’d only ever had Tex-Mex ones drenched in a whole load of cheese I can’t eat; I had no idea the original was a lighter affair with a tomatillo salsa, flavourful shredded chicken, soured cream and a light sprinkling of crumbled, Mexican cheese I subbed Rachel-friendly sheeps feta in for. Aside from this Mexican Prawn Cocktail, if you’re only going to make one thing from this book let it be these enchiladas.
Also on my list to try are the Prawn Empanadas, the Tortilla Soup, Deep Fried Coconut Prawns with Papaya Dipping Sauce, Pulled Chicken Tinga with a Smoky Tomato Sauce, Lime and Chicken Soup, Pork with Black Beans and a really refreshing looking Pineapple & Lime Sorbet. I’ve been recommending Road to Mexico on Instagram since I started cooking from it, so be sure to order a copy (ad) to get it in time for next weekend!
I’ve kept this as a serves two (both starter portions are great as a lunch for one), but it can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd. If you don’t have enough small glasses to pile them up in, arrange everything sprinkled over brightly coloured plates. Also, to keep costs down as I know entertaining can get pricy, I always use frozen prawns as they are much cheaper then fresh, and actually usually better quality as prawns start to deteriorate as soon as they’re out the water, and most you buy these days are frozen out at sea or right by the shore (I learnt this from Rick Stein’s Fish & Shellfish! #ad)
This easy, Mexican twist on a classic prawn cocktail made with avocado, lime and a spicy tomato V8 juice sauce makes a great dinner party starter before a Mexican spread.
70ml (2 1/2 fl oz) Tomato or Vegetable Juice (I used V8 as I drink it every morning)
1 tbsp Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1/4 Lime
1/2 tbsp Chipotle Paste
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco Sauce
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Large Handful Cooked King Prawns
Small Handful Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped + extra to garnish
1 Large Tomato, cubed
1 Small Ripe Avocado, cubed
1 Baby Gem Lettuce, shredded
Tortilla Chips, to serve
Whisk together the tomato juice, garlic infused olive oil (I use and can’t recommend a subscription from Pomora – mine was free but I’d pay for it if they ever stopped sending it to me!), lime juice, chipotle paste, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, a pinch of salt and a good few grinds of pepper.
Carefully stir in the prawn, tomato, avocado and chopped coriander, being sure not the break the avocado up too much (which would make a cloudy sauce).
Divide the lettuce in the bottom of a couple of small glasses, then spoon over the prawn/ tomato/ avocado mixture and any excess juices.
Garnish with any leftover coriander, and serve with tortilla chips for scooping/ in lieu of the more traditional melba toast with the British version.
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