Try lobster, the delicious delicacy
I am writing this morning after a jam-packed book launch for my new book, 'Relish'.
I had to do a BBQ cookery demo in front of almost 200 people last night, no pressure! I wracked my brain for something that would look impressive, be a little bit different, and inspire people to try something new.
And the answer was: lobster.
Lobster is traditionally considered a delicacy, pricey and reserved for posh restaurants.
Surprisingly, in these economic times, lobster is becoming more sought after.
Times are a changin' with trendy eateries like Rock Lobster and Ouzo's in Dublin making this gourmet ingredient accessible and contemporary for the consumer.
And in my cookery classes, I can see a huge upsurge in people wanting to learn how to cook fresh seafood, especially lobster and crab.
I encourage students to visit their local fishmonger or fishing harbour to pick up the freshest specimens.
I often pop down to the Ice Box in Dun Laoghaire pier, Bulloch Harbour in Dalkey or Howth and pick up a lobster for €25 to €30.
Cooking lobster is actually very straightforward and I think best served simply with melted garlic butter or homemade mayonnaise.
It is so delicate and delicious, it needs very little.
Economically, lobster is a very important fishery in Ireland.
There is no limit or quota as to how many lobsters can be caught.
But it is up to fishermen and consumers that lobsters are a certain size when sold, so that they've had the chance to reproduce at least once to replenish the lobster population.
In layman's terms, the section of the lobster after the head, the hard back shell needs to be the length of a business card when you purchase it.
It is estimated there are more than 1,200 lobster fishermen in Ireland, many of whom are dependent on lobsters for their livelihood.
Lobsters are encased in a hard external skeleton that provides protection and body support.
The exoskeleton, or shell, is cast off periodically in a process called moulting or shedding.
Moulting allows the lobster to grow and to mate.
Mating occurs soon after moulting when the female's shell is soft.
Each female can lay from 5,000 to 100,000 eggs depending on body size.
The female carries the eggs within her shell for up to one year, and attached to the underside of her tail for another nine-11 months.
Newly hatched lobsters go through a free-swimming or pelagic larval stage during the first four moults, or for about 15-25 days, depending on water temperature.
Young lobsters resemble the adults after the first four moults, and begin to seek shelter on the bottom.
Lobsters moult about 10 times during their first year of life and the moulting frequency decreases as they grow older.
Lobsters moult approximately 20-25 times over the five-eight years that it takes to reach sexual maturity.
However, very few lobsters reach the age of sexual maturity with scientists estimating that only one in 10,000 hatched lobsters reaches the age of three weeks, as most are preyed upon by larger lobsters or other marine predators.
So you can see why we need to conserve this valuable species and ensure an adequate juvenile population that can grow to maturity and reproduce.
The legal minimum size refers to the length of the hard back shell or carapace.
Lobsters at the legal minimum size, 87mm, weigh approximately 600 grams (1.25lbs).
Scientists have not discovered any method to determine the age of a lobster, but lobsters have been known to grow to a weight of over 9kg (20lbs).
It is impossible to tell the age of a lobster because all of the hard parts of the body are lost when the lobster moults.
When it comes to cooking lobster, you need to start off with a fresh, live lobster.
Once dead, lobster and crab perish very quickly and produce toxins that can be lethal.
Cooking a live lobster can be disturbing for some people so there are a couple of options to make the process more humane.
You can pop the lobster in the freezer for up to two hours before cooking it.
I prefer the method of inserting a sharp chef's knife through the cross on the back of the lobster's head.
This severs the nerve centre instantly.
Split it right down the middle lengthways, clean out the insides and cook on the BBQ until pink and the meat is opaque.
So easy and delicious! To poach a lobster, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
Drop the lobster into the pot and boil, allowing eight minutes per 450g/lb.
Once the lobster is cooked, the pigments in the shell will turn a deep terracotta colour.
If you've never shelled a lobster before, I suggest an experienced person showing you or watching some visuals – www.lobsters4u.com is one of the many websites that will show you step by step how to do it.
It gets easier with practice!
• Rock Lobster Restaurant www.rocklobster.ie Twitter: @DublinLobster
• Ouzo's Bar and Grill www.ouzos.ie Twitter: @OuzosDublin
• Irish Sea Fisheries Protection Authority www.sfpa.ie
• Dalkey Lobster, Crab and All That Jazz Festival www.facebook.com/Dalkey/ LobsterFest
• Recipes and images from 'Relish BBQ' by Rozanne Stevens.
Available in good book shops and from www.rozannestevens.com Twitter: @RozanneStevens
Tremaine's west coast crayfish with curried citrus butter
Serves 4 as a side
• 4 crayfish or lobster
• salt and freshly ground black pepper, sunflower oil
• 4 lemons, cut into wedges
• 10 radishes, sliced
• 3 spring onions, chopped
• 2 heads of baby Cos lettuce, leaves separated and washed
• 2 avocadoes, sliced
• 1 papaya, sliced
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or micro salad leaves, to garnish
• 50ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
• 50ml (1/4 cup) sunflower oil
• 2 tbsp dry white wine
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp lemon zest
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• 1/2 tsp caster sugar
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
Curried citrus butter:
• 2 tsp curry powder
• 1 tsp English mustard powder
• juice of 1/2 lemon
• 225g butter, softened
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
• coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the butter, dissolve the curry powder and mustard powder in the lemon juice. Add the spice mixture to the softened butter along with the crushed garlic and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Scoop the butter onto a sheet of parchment paper. Shape into a log and wrap up in the paper like a Christmas cracker, tying the ends with string. Place in the fridge or even the freezer to slice off discs whenever needed.
Toss all the salad ingredients together except the coriander or micro salad.
Put all the salad dressing ingredients in a jam jar with a lid and give it a good shake. Dress the salad just before serving.
To cook the crayfish, place each crayfish on a board, belly down, tail outstretched. Rest a large, sharp knife, down the length of the back from the small horn between the eyes.
Press down or hit the knife with a mallet to split the shell neatly, then cut through the tail.
Scrape out and discard the entrails. Rinse the crayfish and pat them dry.
Season the crayfish with salt and pepper and brush with some melted curried citrus butter.
Place the crayfish flesh side down on a medium-hot grill just long enough to lightly brown the meat. Lightly oil the lemon wedges and grill until they're just charred.
Turn the fish, baste liberally with melted curried citrus butter and cook for a further 15–20 minutes, until the flesh is opaque and pulls away easily from the shell.
Serve the crayfish with curried citrus butter, charred lemon wedges and dressed salad garnished with coriander or micro salad leaves.
Ish Factor: English mustard powder is a seasoning and cooking condiment made from ground mustard seeds, turmeric and flour. It has a strong, sharp taste that is pungent rather than hot. You can also buy it ready prepared as a paste. I use English mustard to flavour salad dressings, marinades, basting sauces and any time a little oomph is required. It's a multipurpose pantry pal.