Summer is well and truly upon us now and the native lobster season in full swing, with reports of good fishing around the coasts of the UK and with the numbers of juvenile fish in great abundance, which bodes incredibly well for future years. Down in Cornwall, the inshore potting fleet based in Newlyn, have been discarding as many immature lobsters as sizeable fish and with such a positive story for the “recruitment” (or increase in numbers) of the species on the North coast as well, I thought I’d head to the rugged Atlantic coastline there, for my July recipe and to none other than the Michelin-starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, where Nathan famously champions the Cornish lobster from his kitchens in Port Isaac and who very obligingly suggested I tried his famous Lobster Risotto.
Lobstering is going well here in Suffolk too and I’m seeing plenty of juvenile lobsters myself, but also just enough well-sized and mature fish of about 0.5-0.75kgs which make splendid eating. As I write I’ve just returned ashore from a potting trip, having discarded 9 undersized fish or “Nancies” as we used to call them here, and brought home 6 more sizeable lobsters (>87mm across the carapace) to savour and experiment with.
Risottos are one one of my favourite dishes to cook, as the flavours involved can be finely tuned to showcase the main ingredients, against a variety of backgrounds and of course a well-prepared stock is essential to keep the whole thing in balance and provide that perfect increment for the rice reservoir.
This recipe of Nathan’s is one that he devised and made famous at his first restaurant, where he found that lobster, an expensive commodity, could be usefully included in a dish such as a risotto, rather than use whole fish which could be expensive. Interestingly he chooses to use a light, well-prepared vegetable stock instead of utilising the lobster frames; his rationale being that the lobster meat is not then overpowered, by a concentrated shellfish flavour and the dish is more subtle. Nathan’s told me in the past that he loves to use citrus flavours in his fish cookery. The inclusion of chopped orange segments in this recipe not only works, it adds a delicate and delightful fragrance right at the end of the cooking, which actually compliments the lobster meat incredibly well.
This is a bit of a signature dish for Nathan. It’s been a mainstay for him over the years and it’s easy to see why. Rounded, delicately flavoursome, but not intense, light, fresh and seasonally balanced. It’s Summer on a plate to be honest and the perfect way to serve up and do justice to a July lobster and not a drop of double cream in sight!
If you haven’t dined with Nathan at any of his establishments (and you’re half as much into your seafood as I am) then go and put that right immediately. Whether it’s the metro-chic of Outlaws at the Capital, where you get the added culinary wisdom and gift from Chef Tom Brown into the bargain, the charm and rarefied water’s-edge character of the Port Isaac Fish Kitchen or sat atop the Atlantic-facing cliffs above the harbour at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, dining on the most exquisite seafood, gazing spellbound at the panorama: Go, just get yourself down to Cornwall and indulge and enjoy.
Anyway, here’s what happened when I took a couple of my own perfect, local Felixstowe Ferry lobsters and attempted to replicate Nathan’s masterpiece of a risotto. Method and ingredients straight from the man himself, although I did use Bomba rice, (a Valencia rice), more commonly used in paella, as I didn’t have the Carnaroli.
Port Isaac lobster risotto with orange and basil
Taken from Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood by Nathan Outlaw (Quadrille) Photography © David Loftus
2 live lobsters, 500–600g each, placed in the freezer 30 minutes before cooking
(see page 255)
2 litres vegetable stock
50ml olive oil
100g unsalted butter
2 onions, peeled and finely
2 garlic cloves, peeled and
200g Carnaroli risotto rice
8 spring onions, trimmed
and finely sliced
100g Parmesan, grated
12 large basil leaves, finely
1 orange, peel and pith
removed, segmented and
Cornish sea salt and freshly
ground black pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil over a high heat. Once the water
is boiling, quickly take the lobsters from the freezer, place on a board and
firmly insert the tip of your knife into the cross on the head to kill each one
instantly (see page 255). Plunge the lobsters straight into the boiling water
and cook them for 8 minutes. Remove from the water and place on a tray
to cool down. When cool enough to handle, carefully extract the meat (see
page 255). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Before you start the risotto, chop the lobster meat into equal sized pieces,
aiming to get about 20 pieces from each lobster.
To make the risotto, bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a pan and keep
it at a gentle simmer. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add
the olive oil and half of the butter. When the butter is bubbling, add the
onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute, without colouring. Next add the
rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Now add the vegetable
stock to the rice a ladleful at a time, stirring and allowing each addition to
be absorbed before adding the next. Cook the rice in this way for 14 minutes
or until it is al dente and you have a creamy looking risotto.
Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Add the chopped lobster and
spring onions to the rice and cook for 1 minute. Then add the Parmesan,
remaining butter (in pieces) and the basil. Warm gently for 2 minutes,
stirring all the time. Finally add the chopped orange and season with salt
and pepper to taste.
Serve straight away.
Absolutely glorious and served with a well-chilled Viognier. Hopefully I did it justice……….!
My grateful thanks must go to Nathan, his Mum and Quadrille Publishing for the recipe.