Prawn cocktails are back in fashion, says former Bake-Off judge Mary Berry

Classic prawn cocktail. The dish was a staple dinner party starter for decades in the United Kingdom.
Classic prawn cocktail. The dish was a staple dinner party starter for decades in the United Kingdom.PHOTO: SAKURA PRAWNS

(THE GUARDIAN) - It may drum up memories of the kind of dinner party satirised by Abigail's Party but prawn cocktail is back in fashion, according to Mary Berry.

The former Bake-Off judge says that while avocados and toast have become fashionable, the fruit lauded for its nutritional value works better as an addition to a retro classic.

"Better to add them to a prawn cocktail or to a little plate of smoked salmon or shrimps," she told the Radio Times. "And I love prawn cocktail - it's so retro! Do it in a glass, with a little gem lettuce leaf. People used to laugh at prawn cocktail because it felt dated, but it's coming back."

The dish, believed to have originated in the United States, was a staple dinner party starter for decades in the United Kingdom and was reportedly mentioned in the long-running television soap series Coronation Street as far back as 1962.

Five years later, Fanny Craddock described it as "ubiquitous", calling it "a sordid little offering … 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".

It was still very popular in the 1980s but as the British palate broadened it became an object of derision, associated with its contemporaries, chicken kiev and black forest gateau.

Labour's drive to win the support of business and financial leaders before the 1992 general election was lampooned as the "prawn cocktail offensive".

Nevertheless many of the country's best-known chefs retained a love for the dish. Heston Blumenthal has described it as his "secret vice", while Observer food writer Nigel Slater has described it as "the perfect way to start a summer's lunch".