Currabinny: Recipes completely manageable for lobster novices

We don’t cook with lobster often, so this was a bit of a re-education in preparing and using lobsters.
Currabinny: Recipes completely manageable for lobster novices
Currabinny Column - James Kavanagh and William Murray. Photo: Bríd O'Donovan
Currabinny Column - James Kavanagh and William Murray. Photo: Bríd O'Donovan

A large box arrived at the door, carried inside by a strong-looking fellow from the back of a van. Upon opening this box, we were perplexed to find a huge bunch of bladderwrack seaweed. Although we occasionally get sent all sorts of weird and wonderful things, a large box of bladderwrack was definitely a cause for confusion. We love seaweed of course and we know bladderwrack does have some culinary uses, but such a large amount, seemingly fresh from the sea, was definitely perplexing, to say the least.

Leaving the room for a moment, I heard a shrill scream from James and rushed back in. He said there was something moving underneath the seaweed. Tentatively we pulled away the bladderwrack to reveal four live lobsters and a little postcard from the senders.

The lobsters came from Mullaghmore in Sligo, straight from the Atlantic Ocean. Frances and Dathi O'Dowd and Philip Waters from Mullaghmore Lobster have been operating the Mullaghmore Sea Farm since 1951, fishing lobsters, brown crabs, velvet crabs, sea urchins, prawns, shrimp and spider crabs from the crystal clear waters along the northwest coast of Ireland. To conserve lobster stocks, they cut a V-notch in the female lobsters tail and return them alive to the sea. They now deliver live lobsters and crab, nationwide. You simply order online at www.mullaghmoreseafarm.com before Wednesday and they will be delivered that Friday.

The box is biodegradable and the seaweed can be used in a broth or is one of the best fertilisers for budding gardeners like ourselves.

We don’t cook with lobster often, so this was a bit of a re-education in preparing and using lobsters. The following recipes therefore should be completely manageable for other lobster novices. We made these three recipes using the four lobsters which we cooked together in a large pot.

Currabinny Lobster Pot
Currabinny Lobster Pot

Cooking Lobster

This is the classic way of cooking and eating lobster which we both learned when training at Ballymaloe.

Often, when using such high-quality ingredients, it is the simplest methods that garner the best results.

In this recipe, we will show you how to cook and prepare the lobster, separating the meat and shell, what to discard and what to keep and then a simple way of serving the meat.

This recipe is from Ballymaloe where they use the most humane method of cooking live lobsters. Use this initial method of cooking and preparing lobster for the rest of the recipes as well.

If you are unsure about removing the meat from the shells, you can always use a YouTube tutorial. There are loads of good ones to choose from, including bonappetit.com

Ingredients:

2 900g live lobsters

1 carrot

1 onion

600ml of water

600ml of dry white wine

Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaf 6 peppercorns

To serve:

110g butter

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sprigs of parsley to garnish

Method:

We placed the lobsters in the freezer for around an hour before using, sending them to sleep. Take the lobsters out of the freezer and place in a large pot and cover with lukewarm water with around 4 tablespoons of salt for every 4 pints of water. You could also use seawater if you live near the sea.

Put on a low heat, bringing slowly to a simmer. Lobsters will die at around 44C and their shells will start changing colour. The gradual heating water will cause them to go asleep before they know what is happening.

When the lobsters are dead, remove them from the pot and discard the cooking water (reserve around 1litre of it if you wish to use it in a bisque). In the same pot, boil together 600ml of water, the white wine, bouquet garni, carrot, onion and peppercorns. Add the lobsters back into the pot and place the lid on tightly.

Steam the lobster until they turn bright red. Judge the cooking roughly by allowing 15 minutes for the first 450g and another 10 minutes per 450g after that.

Leave the lobsters, cool enough to handle before dismantling them. Start by twisting the head off and setting it aside.

Cut down the length of the body and pull away the shell to extract the succulent tail meat. Remove the intestinal tract which runs along the back of the tail.

Remove the pinchers from the head along with the legs and the feathery gills (dead man's fingers). Discard the gills.

Remove the stomach sack and grit from the head. If you like the tomalley, which will be the greenish-grey substance then reserve this.

Break the pincers at the joints and, using a skewer, remove the meat from inside the shells. Break the claws open with something like the back of a knife or a pestle. Remove the meat from inside the claws. Break the legs at the joints and remove meat with a skewer. Reserve the shells for a bisque or stock.

Use the halved tail shells to serve this dish. Heat the shells on a hot pan with some butter and then add the meat. When hot and buttery, place the meat inside the shells and serve on a warm plate with lemon juice squeezed over the meat and a nice garnish of parsley.

Simple and delicious.

Lobster bisque

There is something deeply satisfying about lobster bisque, which is almost unmatched by anything else for sheer depth of flavour. Indeed, it is up there with our death row meals. It is all about extracting the pure, sweet flavour from the lobster shells to create a sort of broth which you mix with cream.

Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque

Ingredients:

Reserve lobster shells, crushed and bashed

1 tablespoon of sea salt

Punch of parsley, leaves and stalks

750ml chicken stock or lobster cooking water

400ml dry white wine

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 roughly chopped carrot

2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

100g of butter

2 springs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

60ml brandy or sherry

200ml double cream

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Black pepper and sea salt

Method:

In a large pot over a medium-high heat, add the butter and bashed lobsters shells. Move the shells around in the butter until everything is coated. You should be able to smell the incredible fragrance of the lobster and the butter will start to turn orange. Deglaze the pot with white wine and add the chicken stock, parsley and bay leaves.

Add more water and salt if all of the shells aren’t covered properly. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for around 45 minutes.

In a separate pot, sauté the vegetables in some butter. Once the stock is ready, strain through a very fine mesh sieve into a large bowl or jug, making sure all of the shell and bits and pieces are removed. We double sieved it to make extra sure.

Add this stock to the veg alongside a sprig of thyme, tomato puree, brandy and some sea salt. Place the lid on a simmer gently for 45 minutes.

When ready to serve, blitz the bisque with a large hand blender until very smooth. Stir in the cream and warm back up until hot. Serve with some reserved lobster meat and a squeeze of lemon juice.

There is something deeply satisfying about lobster bisque, which is almost unmatched by anything else for sheer depth of flavour. Indeed, it is up there with our death row meals. It is all about extracting the pure, sweet flavour from the lobster shells to create a sort of broth which you mix with cream.

Lobster Linguine

Having cooked four lobsters, we still had a good bit of lovely, tender lobster meat left and a little of the bisque which we had reserved for this very reason. Lobster linguine is the perfect summer evening dinner. It is easy to make, devilishly delicious and can be eaten hot or even cold.

Lobster Linguine
Lobster Linguine

Ingredients:

Meat from one or two cooked lobsters

2 shallots, sliced very finely

1 small red chilli, finely sliced

1 clove of garlic, sliced thinly

Handful of basil

50g butter

Juice of 1/2 lemon

100g parmesan

250ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons of chopped chives

Reserve lobster bisque 500g dried linguine

Lobster Linguine
Lobster Linguine

Method:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente. Reserve a little of the starchy, salty cooking water before draining the pasta.

In a large frying pan or casserole, sauté the shallot, garlic and chilli in the butter until softened and fragrant.

Add the cream, parmesan, lobster bisque and a little pasta water and stir around the pan, letting it reach a gentle simmer, where it will start to come together and thicken.

Add the lobster meat, along with the pasta and stir everything around until well combined.

Add the chopped chives at the end or use as a garnish along with plenty of torn basil and black pepper.

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