They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I’m not so sure with lobster, although that is usually the kind of thing you say to an ugly child. A good, spicy, deep and rich bisque made with the ground shell and claws gets me more excited than the sweet flesh inside. And it’s quite often the best thing to do with the cheaper and less wonderful ones that you may get from your backstreet fishmonger or supermarket freezer. The kind where the meat tastes and feels like it’s just been ten rounds with Frank Bruno.
I used one lobster to make this, but I often will have a bag of prawn carcasses in the freezer for such an occasion. Not this time though, as I’ve recently cleaned out the drawers, unearthing such things as a permafrozen woolly mammoth, a small choc-ice from 1984 and many, many loose peas.
It’s a good was to use up some of those sad looking celery stalks and the joke shop bendy carrots in the fridge drawer that have seen better days only to be left deflating behind the half lemons and sad lettuce. What nutrients they have left in them can be wrung out, along with the flavour in the lobster carcass and inner bits that remain.
It’s a really wonderful, powerful soup, absolutely full of flavour. I like mine with a little more of a Cayenne pepper kick than is strictly necessary. It’s great with a little tarragon creme fraiche stirred through at the end and even nicer with a fat tortellini stuffed with crab meat and spring onion in the middle.
One thing to be careful of when making this, is the claws are really hard work to blitz and you can easily break your blender blade, especially if you’re using a stick blender, so after cooking it, try and smash them up a bit with the back of a knife into easier chunks and take your time. It’s worth it.
1 lobster shell, claws and inside bits after you’ve used the claw and tail meat
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
A knob of ginger, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2tsp smoked paprika
A handful of uncooked basmati rice
1tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1/2tsp ground cloves
2tsp Cayenne pepper
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp Swiss bouillon powder
Tarragon vinegar or white wine to deglaze the pan
A few tablespoons of double cream
Salt to season
Heat some olive oil in a deep, heavy-based pan and add the shell and vegetables. Stir well, roasting for a few minutes until things start to colour and stick a little.
Deglaze the pan with the vinegar.
Add the remaining ingredients, season and stir well. Cook for one minute.
Cover all the ingredients with water and bring to the boil for ten minutes.
Put the lid on, turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour
Carefully blitz until as smooth as possible, although I like mine with a little grittiness to it. I use a stick blender for this, but it’s a pretty heavy duty one. The standard kitchen ones may not be able to cope. Use a food processor if necessary, and be careful.
Strain the mix through a fine sieve and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in the cream, garnish with a few strips of fennel and thyme and serve.