Simple pleasures

Don’t be so shellfish


Lobster with potato straws, pickled apple, cucumber, fennel and ginger

I found a lobster in the freezer yesterday. Cooked and frozen solid. I’d forgotten about it, languishing there like an extra in Quincy. I gave it a hot bath, and a little shine up before taking it apart, post-mortem.

Not having been able to establish a cause of death, and I know it was dead when it went in under some Vienetta, I’ll have to leave an open verdict. Frozen lobster is obviously not a patch on fresh. And I’d far rather some plump tiger prawns anyway, unless I’m sitting on the shore watching the fishermen haul them up from their lobster pots and bring them clattering to the shore while singing sea shanties and talking of the sea as a ‘capricious mistress’. Seeing as we live in London, this is not a fantasy I can often indulge in and I’m certainly not going to turn down this treasure from the deep-freeze.

One of my favourite things to do with shellfish is keep their shells and bits for bisque. You can freeze them after cooking to do this at a later date, although in this case, I just used the one shell and made the soup straight away. I love the grittiness, the deep spiciness of the soup and it also makes a great sauce for pasta. The recipe is here.

I would recommend using fresh lobster where possible, this simple dish really sings and zings so the better quality you can get, the better the end result. To state the obvious.

The sweet lobster tail, the delicate claws. The quick pickled apple salad, sharp and crunchy with the aniseed hit of fennel. The warmth and freshness of ginger and the cooling cucumber, mixing among the crisp potato (let’s call them chips, for that’s what they are) and the punchy garlic aioli dressing that will breathe fear into your neighbours. This is a lunch worthy of any table from the city to the huts in Cadgwith or white sandy beaches in Sri Lanka. And all from the freezer and the fruit bowl.

Ingredients for two
1 medium lobster per person
1 Maris piper potato, finely sliced into matchsticks
1 apple, cubed
1 small fennel bulb, sliced
1/2 a cucumber, deseeded and cubed
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
50ml cider vinegar
1tbsp caster sugar
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 egg yolks
150ml olive oil
1tbsp Dijon mustard
A little squeeze of lemon juice or sherry vinegar
1tbsp chopped chives
2tsp fresh thyme leaves
Rapeseed oil for frying

Make the aioli by whisking the ingredients (apart from the oil) together and slowly drizzling in the oil as you whisk, until it makes an emulsion. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and set aside.

Do what you need to do to the lobster. Cook it and cool it in iced water (probably about 12 minutes cooking depending on size) or defrost it. Carefully remove the tail and claw meat and keep the shell if you’re making bisque.

Mix the apple, fennel, cucumber and ginger with the vinegar and sugar and let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat about four centimetres of oil in a heavy-based saucepan and
fry the potato until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and season well.

Serve the salad topped with the lobster and chips, a good dollop of the aioli and a sprinkle of cress and fennel fronds.

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