Sunday, 6 September 2009

What Really Is Scampi?

Whilst having my coffee this morning, I turned on the telly to see what they were doing on BBC2's Something For The Weekend. The chef, Simon Rimmer, was preparing a scampi dish and they were discussing its definition.

Now, we know the definition of real scampi: a quick look on Wikipedia or Google will provide us with that. However, what passes as scampi in pubs throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles is quite another matter; or so it seems.

Simon Rimmer made a valiant attempt at it and his answer was necessarily vague. He explained that our pubs used to serve lobster tail-ends as scampi; then monk-fish, which became too costly; and now they pass off any white fish cut into goujons as scampi.

Perhaps I am being nostalgic yet again; but the battered scampi which was served in the original Lobster Pot, Strangford, certainly appeared sumptuous and juicy. That was thirty years ago, incidentally.

I am still unclear as to what we are really eating when we order scampi in a country pub today. Presumably most urban pubs simply empty it out of a packet, the way we buy it from supermarkets. Many establishments cannot be bothered to remove the black intestinal tracts which run down the prawns - if that is what so-called scampi really is.

I am convinced that there is a percentage of pubs - particularly town ones - which have not got a clue as to what it constitutes. Is it a closely-guarded secret within the catering industry? May I invite a local publican or restaurateur to disclose the true contents of the dish known as scampi on bar menus? Or do they simply trust their suppliers?

No matter what the catering industry passes it off as, I'll always enjoy it: battered, with triple-cooked hand-made chips, Heston Blumenthal-style; bucket-loads of tangy sauce tartare; and a dressed garnish.

By the way, the original Lobster Pot always served their scampi and chips with a small garnish of lettuce and a tomato wedge. And peas too, if I remember rightly.


Sharon Owens said...

Thanks for this, I did wonder what the black line was, and it has put me off scampi. The Royal Arms Hotel in Oamgh used to serve delicious scampi in breadcrumbs with lemon wedges and chips - lovely!!! Big bright yellow lemons too, I've never seem them since.

Timothy Belmont said...

It's not very nice that, is it, Sharon? When I was a tad younger, I used to spend minutes meticulously removing the black line! Nowadays I just try to ignore it and think of what Bear Grylls consumes on his intrepid travels. I smother it in tartare sauce anyway. Big kid!

Some places are really mean about the lemon slices, aren't they? They seem to manage about 50 slices per lemon - death by a thousand cuts!

Lousy day today: visited M&S Bally hackamore and bought fruit pastilles, raspberries, streaky bacon, Jersey butter, creme fraishe etc :-)


Chad said...

I always make sure to remove the intestinal trail, unless I were on a deserted island, or in prison. :)

Timothy Belmont said...

Sound advice! :-)

Stephen said...

I love the stuff. Doesn't exist outside the British Isles, indeed I'm not sure it can be procured in

Bit nervous about the intestinal references, never noticed that, but I'm still ok!

Never tried the Lobster Pot, My favourite renditions are at Daft Eddy's and the Portaferry Hotel. When I come home I eat it pretty much every day, for a fortnight. Ardglass probably sees a surge in their local economy at the same time.

My rule of thumb would be if you are paying more than a tenner in a decent restaurant you are getting the genuine article (think they are actually tiny lobsters). Five quid in a pub and caveat emptor!


Timothy Belmont said...

We used to enjoy the occasional meal at Aldo's in Ardglass, Stephen.