Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps

Clare Worrall, Furness Fish

Morecambe Bay potted shrimps – tiny brown shrimps cooked in spiced local butter – sold well last year, but our supplier Clare Worrall, of Furness Fish, says they’re still at risk of being forgotten. “Shrimps were originally potted to preserve them and traditionally it’s an older generation that know about them,” says Clare, whose uncle started the company she now owns. “We get a lot of people asking for a pot of prawns. They’re not the same. The prawn is a cousin, but it’s much bigger and has a completely different taste.” Once they come out of Morecambe Bay, the shrimps must be peeled and cleaned before taking a bath in the spiced butter. Whether it’s done by hand or machine, peeling is a time-consuming business, and the skills of both fishermen and peelers are hard-earned and have been passed through the generations. “You do worry about it dying out,” says Clare.

What’s the story?

The vicissitudes of Morecambe Bay govern every part of the age-old practice of finding food there. From the north east side of the bay, where our supplier Furness Fish is based, shrimp nets were once pulled by horse and cart. Now the fishermen use tractors – but they’ve got to be tough. “We go out at low water and fish the channels,” says Clare Worrall, who runs Furness Fish. “Old tractors from the sixties and seventies work a lot better than new ones, which seem to get clogged up by the sand and the salt.” Experience and knowledge keeps the fishermen safe, and Clare’s uncle Reg Salisbury, who founded the company, still fishes. “He’s 68 and his knowledge is impeccable,” she says.

Clare oversees the fiddly process of peeling and cleaning the tiny shrimp, which are briefly boiled, relieved of their husks, and then cooked in butter and spices, cooled, and sealed with more local butter. “We have a simple recipe and that’s what we’ve stuck to,” she says. “You can guess what the spices are but I can’t tell you if you’re right! They’re a little bit spicy once they’re potted, but they have a very delicate taste.” They’re best served at room temperature or slightly warmed. “The shrimp is my favourite product because of the history, and I love them. I warm them up in a bowl so the butter melts back into them and have slices of dippy toast to dip in. Potted shrimps have got plenty of calories in, but we don’t offer them as a healthy alternative!”