by Ed Sikov
All I wanted was a good slab of shepherd’s pie. Is that too much to have asked? Apparently so, because in one week in London I couldn’t find a single pub that served it. There were bad burgers galore, some pretty damn good local beers, but no shepherd’s pie. One pub even had an entirely Indian menu.
Dan had to go for, yes, a conference, but this time I successfully wheedled my way along. It’s only been five years or so since I’ve been to London, one of my favorite cities on the planet, but the place has undergone a distinct change in the wrong direction. I have nothing against Starbucks, but please – not on every London corner. The number of chain stores, chain restaurants, chain supermarkets (there was a Whole Foods across the street from our hotel) was just a bummer.
As for English food, I’ve always had a taste for it – when it’s well prepared, that is. A badly made dinner is a badly made dinner everywhere on earth, England included, but English food tends to have a terrible reputation that’s quite unjustified. But recently, chefs all over London have gone locovore – menus spell out precisely what region of the country the lamb comes from, the sea that bears the cockles, and so on, and by and large it’s all quite delicious.
But no shepherd’s pie! I’ll have to make my own.
In the meantime, I found myself in one dark pub sitting around with several men who appeared to be veterans of the Boer War, and I was considering simple things to do with the Guinness I was drinking other, of course, than drinking it.
The easiest of all is the delicious and delightfully messy Shrimp Boiled in Guinness. Here’s the recipe, complete with some suggestions to keep your evening from turning into a laundry nightmare:
1 can Guinness
1 to 3 pounds of shrimp, unshelled (depending on the number of guests; figure 1/2 pound per person)
First, advise your guests that they will be making a mess at dinner and should wear T-shirts or, perhaps better, no shirts. When they arrive, ply them full of Absolut on the rocks while you dump a bag full of pre-mixed salad into a bowl and throw some bottled dressing on it. Then pour the Guinness into a very large pot and bring it to a boil. Watch it; you don’t want a boil-over. Add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is pink – only two or three minutes. Drain. Serve. Make a big mess as everyone peels their shrimp. Then talk everyone into taking a group shower. Have a few lemons halved for this purpose; run the cut sides over every inch of your guests’ bodies before you allow them into the shower, and then have a great time under the running water.