The problem with fashion is that as soon as you get used to it, the Garment Gendarmes decree that it is passé, and so all the fashionistas — my very, very least favourite fashionable word after “über”, although “stakeholders” comes a close third — get into a great fug and start taking antidepressants until the cheque comes in at the end of the month and they can go shopping again.
So any über fashionable stakeholders should steer clear of this berth, as should the culinary equivalent so beloved of the Gourmet Gendarmes, their gustatory cousins. And let’s not even mention the Blond-gedyde Dames of Posh Galore, to borrow from Pieter-Dirk Uys’s Karnaval and the past-it Long Street madam with her “blondgedyde hare, haar nightclub snare”, who, not to put too fine a point on it, knew Long Street “poedelkaal”. My friends over at Posh Galore haven’t featured in this column for a while, but I’m sure they would frown upon the thought of me dredging up a hasbeen old kitchen favourite again, on this dubious occasion the sadly lamented “Avocado Ritz”.
But it isn’t, in fact. Because, as is my wont, I’ve given the old girl a twist and, having decided to use some shredded baby savoy cabbage in it, I’ve renamed it (no surprises here) Avocado Savoy. The two London hotels are walking distance from each other, anyway, so it shouldn’t matter much. Anyway, it was apparently created at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, not the London one, although it is widely regarded as a South African dish, because of its ubiquity on old-fashioned menus and the availability and huge popularity of avocados in this country.
So, really, what we should be developing is a recipe for Avocado Karoo Grand, and getting David Kramer to write a new song about it in the process. Loathe as I would be to add a tablespoon of Mrs H S Ball’s finest blatjang to a pleasantly tart Marie Rose sauce — that pink sauce with a lick of brandy that makes a good Avo Ritz work — this does beg for a variation on the theme. What I think we could do is to introduce sultanas or raisins into the dish, first soaked in brandy and strewn through the slightly crunchy greens below the pinkly preening shrimps in their sauce atop the halved avocado.
At which one imagines the Festooned Femmes of Posh Galore are positively blanching in horror like a handful of almonds about to be dropped into boiling water, there to lose their coats. Such is the lot of a magazine writer granted far too much time for lingering lunches, by editors who only have time for slaving away at a hot desktop proofing pages.
But I haven’t yet gone down the road of any Avo Karoo Grand or Avocado Royal Hotel Kroeg, the latter of which would probably not go down very well with the manne unless it had a stukkie boerewors stuck in the centre.
But I did, this week, take advantage of the sweet ripeness of the current crop of avos to make a slight variation on the old classic, and was reminded yet again of how delicious a good, well-made Marie Rose sauce is … and how easy it is it make. It’s so delicious that it is almost a disgrace that we have relegated it to sauce non grata status for so very long.
A halved, peeled avocado each, so one avo for 2 people
(Or 1 avo each, halved, as a main course for lunch)
1x 200g can cocktail shrimps, which when drained has a mass of 120g shrimps
2 or 3 deveined prawns each to garnish, in their shells, heads on
6 baby fennel bulbs
6 spring onions
1 stick celery
4-6 leaves of baby savoy cabbage for each avocado
A few baby rosa tomatoes for garnish
3 Tbs mayonaisse
3 Tbs tomato sauce (yes, ketchup, Daisy, pop a pink pill if this is all too much for you)
2 Tbs Fine de Jourdan (or other) potstill brandy (or your regular brand if you’re not feeling flush)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
A quarter teaspoon sugar or drizzle of honey
To make the sauce, all you need is a small bowl, a tablespoon and a metal whisk. Spoon in three good dollops of a good mayo, three tablespoons tomato sauce (Daisy, take a swig of the brandy and get on with it) and two tablespoons of brandy, unless you’ve finished it. Whisk lightly until blended and free of any possible lumps (the mayo can collect and become lumpy, but whisking solves that). But this sauce isn’t ready until you’ve tasted it, and adjusted if necessary.
The key is that you should be able to taste all three elements, the mayo, the tomato sauce and most decidedly the brandy, which gives it a deep, almost raisiny depth of flavour and a pleasant kick. If you can’t quit register any of the three, it needs a tiny bit more of whichever is not clearly registering on the palate. As for quantities, as much or little as you like. Just keep adjusting.
Steam the cleaned and deveined whole prawns in a steamer until pink and done — it only takes a few minutes, so keep an eye — and leave to cool.
Bring some water to a simmer and plop in first the celery and baby fennel bulb (having cut away the frilly bits and the root core), and half a minute later add the spring onion for only a few seconds. Everything should still be crisp. Remove, drain in a colander or fine sieve, and run cold or iced water through to set the colours, which should be bright green. Dry on kitchen paper.
Finely slice the savoy cabbage leaves. Slice the fennel bulb, celery and spring onions finely and place in a bowl with the cabbage leaves. Grate the lime zest over this and squeeze in its juice and a hint of honey or sugar (optional). Season with a little salt and pepper. Toss lightly.
Peel and halve the avos and place on plates. Either spoon the green salad into the hollows of the fruit (that would be the avos, Daisy) or alongside on the plate.
Drain the shrimps well and toss into the Marie Rose sauce. Spoon into the cavities. Garnish with the whole prawns and, if you like, a few halved ripe baby tomatoes for colour.
It’s not fashionable, as I don’t doubt the Masticatory Madams of Posh Galore would be very quick to point out, but it is a very satisfying meal, fresh, light, bright and breezy. Perfect for a summer day.