Well, its official. According to my reliable and knowledgable sources on the East coast, the lobsters are now “on the crawl” to use local fisherman parlance. It’s been a relatively slow start this year though; lower than normal water temperatures persisting into the Spring have meant more protracted landings of both crab and lobster here, but now with June’s advent, the water is starting to gain a little of its seasonal clarity and a forest of dahn markers have appeared on the grounds, just offshore, delineating everyone’s gear.
Mine too. I have six pots fishing at the moment with another four waiting to be put out and for my relatively slight fishing “effort” I’ve been pleased with the results so far and look forward to more expectant and adrenalin-fuelled hauls, on glassy summer seas in the near future. Of course it’s just a hobby to me, but a very important one, as it allows me to experience, albeit on a small scale, first hand, exactly what fishermen have to do throughout the year and just what it takes to hunt, trap and land wild quarry, before even contemplating selling it.
My lobsters naturally all end up at home, (unless I have a particularly weak moment), and continuing my summer theme of using their succulent, sweet and sensational flesh to the max and having started the season with a simple and unadulterated offering, I thought perhaps I’d try something a little more exotic and spicy, which still brings out the best in the fish, but is not overpowered by the flurry of flavours.
Lobsters recipes are not hard to come by. In fact, in every seafood cookery tome I posses, I think that they probably feature in some form or another. But rather than just lift something straight off a page, I though I’d seek personal recommendation and was delighted that renowned and passionate seafood chef and restaurateur, Ed Baines, of Randall & Aubin fame, took time out of his incredibly hectic schedule, (they’ve just opened another restaurant in Manchester), to provide me with an inspirational recipe for his own Bashan-style lobster, that is not only relatively easy to accomplish, but showcases the lobster with a remarkably subtle piquance and fragrance.
For the recipe I adapted Ed’s ingredients, just slightly, to utilise local provenance and for the stock and sauce, instead of using prawns, I opted for Lowestoft- landed brown shrimps, which provided a wonderful background flavour to both and a very appealing garnish to the lobster.
The not-so-obvious secret to any shellfish sauce is the quality of the stock which it lives or dies by, in my opinion. The stock that Ed advocates in this recipe uses quite a few very essential ingredients and its worth sourcing everything fresh and getting it right, believe me. So important, that stock!
Herewith then, the ingredients and method by Ed and transcribed by me. I’ll wait until you’ve read through and had a look at the outcome before I give you my verdict 🙂
2 x 750g native live lobsters.
For the Stock
2 tsp tomato purée
1 carrot (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large clove garlic (peeled and bashed)
250g shell-on prawns (I used brown shrimps) (peel and reserve meat – heads and shells for the stock)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
4 sprigs parsley
2 oz butter
For the Curry Sauce
1 small red chilli
1/3 thumb fresh ginger
2 peeled garlic cloves
2 peeled shallots (chopped)
1 bunch fresh coriander (keep stalks for the stock)
1 lime (juiced)
1 stick fresh lemon grass (cracked)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tin coconut milk
200ml double cream.
For the Spinach
200g fresh washed baby leaf spinach
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch ground black pepper
Whilst heating the butter, add the chopped carrot, garlic onion, celery and soften. Add the shrimp shells/heads and the tomato puree and cook out for 1 min. Add 1 litre water, the parsley and the coriander stalks. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for one hour (simmering oven of an aga if you have one). Remove, strain and reheat to reduce by 1/3.
Chop the ginger, garlic and chilli, add to the chopped shallots and sauté in butter until soft. Add the spices and black pepper and cook out for 1 min over a low heat. Remove from the heat and blitz to a fine paste. Now add the coconut milk, into the same pan. Now add the cracked lemon grass and the stock a little at a time, to create a smooth sauce, bring to the boil and add 200ml double cream. Bring to a simmer and reduce till thickened and pass through a fine sieve. Add salt to taste.
Wilt the spinach in the melted butter and add in the nutmeg and black pepper. Cook down briefly and allow to cool.
Blanch the live lobster, in boiling salted water for 5 mins and allow to cool before halving and cracking the claws. Remove the tail and claw meat (I kept the claws whole) and cut into cubes and add the meat to a bowl with the peeled shrimps and the cooked spinach and combine with 8 tbsp of the sauce.
Place this mixture back in the shells and and bake in a hot oven at 180C for 5mins or grill over white coals for the same.
Serve with rice or potato and chopped spring onion salad (I made saffron rice using Bomba rice and extra shrimp stock.
I have to say that Ed has absolutely nailed it with this dish. It’s fragrant, delicate and incredibly flavoursome. There’s no heat, so it’s a curry straight from the beaches of Sri Lanka or Goa. It’s beautifully balanced and the mix of spices compliment the lobster meat in an incredibly satisfying way and more to the point, really not too difficult to prepare. It’s by no means a quick dish as you need to invest time in the stock, but hey what a result…….. I commend it to you!