Chef Paula McIntyre is Northern Ireland director for Slow Food UK and a regular visitor to Borough Market. Ahead of her upcoming cooking demonstration, she offers tips and suggestions on cooking the king of crustaceans: lobster
Does anything say summer more than a freshly caught lobster, sizzling on a grill, with the air broken by the scent of hot shell and sweet ozoney fish? Now is the time to make the most of this beautiful crustacean.
Lobster should only ever be cooked and eaten the moment they die and therein lies the reason that most people don't cook this wonderful seafood at home. We'll happily grill a piece of chicken or lamb that someone else has disposed of, but get a bit squeamish when you're actually in on the act.
The RSPCA recommends freezing a live lobster for about 30 minutes before cooking. The cold will render the lobster catatonic. It can then be plunged into boiling water and the whole thing is done humanely.
Respect and appreciate
A fishmonger will also do the needful for you by rapidly spearing the top of the head for a swift end. What better way to respect and appreciate food than to be in on this process? You won't eat fresher or better food.
I'm blessed to live on the uppermost tip of the north coast of Ireland where lobster boats still arrive into Portstewart harbour. We export most of our catch to Spain and France, but a phone call and meeting will secure all you want for the princely sum of £6 a pound at the most. Lobster from the coastal waters of the UK and Ireland is without doubt the best in the world.
When you have your lobster and it’s ready to be cooked, you should split it through the head and body with a sharp knife, and drizzle the flesh with olive oil. Crack the claws with a rolling pin and place shell side down on a hot barbecue and grill for about six minutes.
White, firm and translucent
When the flesh is white, firm and translucent, it’s ready. Anoint with a little grilled lemon juice and brush with some melted butter. When you have something as supremely beautiful as this, there is no need to gild the lily with extravagant dressings or sauces.
To boil a lobster, place it into boiling salted water. A 1kg lobster will take about 10 minutes to cook. Remove from the water and plunge into ice. Remove the claws first. As a young chef I was always taught to place the claws down on a board and crack with a rolling pin. I was doing this in a kitchen last year and the lobster fisher man arrived and told me I was doing it all wrong.
Cradle the claw in your hand and tap gently. It works a treat and you don’t get all that shrapnel and juice spurting everywhere! Remove the meat and then crack the tail meat like it’s a big prawn. Remove the flesh in one piece. Place the cooked lobster on a platter and serve with lemon and some homemade mayonnaise.
A delicious stock
The shells should be roasted and then simmered with tomato, white wine and aromatic vegetables to make a delicious stock that can be used for sauce or soup. Alternatively, they can be simmered gently in oil with herb stalks, lemon zest and chilli to make a beautiful coral-hued infusion that's simply lovely in a dressing or used for aioli.
Lobster isn’t the decadent luxury item its image suggests. It's relatively reasonably priced and a little goes a long way.
Join me for tips, tastings and recipes on Thursday 23rd June in the Market Hall between 12:30 and 2pm.