Moments after dispatching an encroaching thug in the film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond, portrayed by George Lazenby, helps himself to a mouthful of caviar and declares it, “Royal Beluga–north of the Caspian.” Well-versed in champagne, spirits and women, Bond also has a gourmet’s sensitivy (even if he does occasionally dabble in excess), and his preferences often run to seafood.
Though the subject receives less mention in the films, food plays a larger role in many of the James Bond novels penned by Ian Fleming, who endowed his character with his own penchant for classic British cuisine. In Moonraker, during a multicourse dinner with M at Blades, Bond samples smoked salmon, cured in the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by toast and Jersey butter, before starting on his meal of lamb cutlets, asparagus, buttered peas and new potatoes. “The best English cooking,” he asserts, “is the best in the world.”
One of Fleming’s favorite dishes, and one of Bond’s as well, was a Lancastrian dish called potted shrimps. Served at Fleming’s favorite London establishment, Scott’s, the dish consists of tiny, sweet brown shrimp from northwest England’s Morecambe Bay, encased in spice-flavored butter. (Long ago, the butter would have served as a preservative and precluded the need for refrigeration.) Though the shrimp of Morecambe Bay are hard to come by stateside, larger shrimp can be substituted (as can crab or even lobster), provided they’re finely minced.
The preparation is simple: melt two sticks of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne pepper and one tablespoon of minced shallot. Cook for one minute, and add a half pound of cooked, chopped shrimp. Cook for one minute more, and finish with a half teaspoon of anchovy paste, two teaspoons of lemon juice and salt to taste. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to an appropriately sized bowl or ramekin, and spoon the remaining butter overtop. Chill in the refrigerator or freezer until the butter sets, and serve with toast points, watercress or arugula and lemon wedges.
By no means do potted shrimps make for a healthful meal, but as Bond argued in Fleming’s Thunderball, a man can’t do his work on carrot juice.