Tag Archives: lobster

RECIPE: LOBSTER PIROGUE

Another tasty recipe for  lobster. A ‘pirogue’ (pee-roag) is a Louisiana term for the wooden canoe used for fishing and negotiating the swamps and lakes, Ponchartrain included. By extension, it also means a vegetable that’s been hollowed out and filled. I’ve used aubergine here; you could equally well use large courgettes, marrow, squash or a butternut squash except with the last you’d have to be pretty ingenious to create the canoe shape.

This dish is dedicated to the Rev. Tony Ricard, late of Star of The Sea, New Orleans, the finest ‘sky pilot’ I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to and meet. I first had a version of this dish in an informal restaurant outside ‘N’Awlins’, the name of which I’ve long since forgotten.

2 large aubergines

1-2 tbsp olive oil

45g butter

4-5 scallions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 hot red chilli, cut up very small

1 thumbnail-sized nugget of ginger, cut small

1 tsp tomato purée

30g flour

2 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp cumin

grating of nutmeg

1 glass dry white wine

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to season

2 egg yolks

2-3 tsp Tabasco or 1-2 of Tabasco plus 1 of Peychaud cocktail bitters (some like it hot!)

60 cheddar cheese cut into small dice

350g cooked lobster meat, cut into pieces

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

A few breadcrumbs

serves 4

Preheat oven to 220ºC. Cut the aubergines in half and hollow them out, leaving approx 1 cm of flesh on the skins (a melon baller or an old dessertspoon with the leading edge filed sharp is a perfect tool for this job). Brush with olive oil and place on a baking sheet (a small ‘flat’ shaved off the underside will make the ‘boats’ stable so they don’t rock or fall over when you plate up). Bake the shells for 8-10 minutes and remove before they start to crumble or collapse. Reserve.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the scallions, garlic, chilli, ginger and tomato puree and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour, cumin, paprika and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter combine. Add the wine, stir, then add the milk and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat immediately and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring to achieve the consistency of a bechamel. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the egg yolks and the Tabasco or Tabasco/bitters, then add the cheese, lobster meat and flat leaf parsley.

Fill the aubergine ‘boats’ with the mixture. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs over the top and return to oven until the dish is bubbling and the crumbs are browned. Serve very hot, either with a green salad or with some boiled rice, ideally a mixture of white and ‘black rice’.*

* technically, ‘black rice’ is not a rice at all

LOBSTER and LEEK RISOTTO

LOBSTER AND LEEK RISOTTO

Preparing the beasts is not rocket science. Cut off the claws, as near to the body as you can. Whack them lightly with a hammer or the blunt end of a cleaver. Peel off the shell and prise out the meat (using fingers and a metal skewer). Twist off the head. Draw a sharp knife down the underside of the belly, splitting the body into two. Extract the meat and set aside. You can save the half-shells for serving the lobster in but I prefer to collect all the residue and make stock, boiling it up with water and any vegetable trimmings I can find.

For the stock

Place the residue of the lobster – head, coral (unless you like it in the risotto), shell – in a large plan with 1.5 litres of water, a chopped carrot, a small onion, a stick of celery and a handful of parley and thyme. If you want a stronger-flavoured stock, here’s a cheat – add a heaped teaspoonful of the Prawn Paste you can buy in the Oriental Emporium or Asian grocers. Boil briskly for no longer than 45 minutes or until the water has reduced by one third. Strain and reserve the liquid, keeping it hot but not boiling.

Ingredients

2 small knobs of butter and a little extra virgin olive oil

2 leeks, thinly sliced

1 small-medium onion, finely chopped

360g good Italian risotto rice (carnaroli, arborio, vialone nano)

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 good glass of dry white wine

1 litre lobster stock (above) or hot water

350g lobster meat

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest of two limes

Serves 4

Sweat leeks and onion in some butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large pan on the stovetop, under a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon – important, according to all the top risotto chefs. When the onions just start to change colour, add the rice and continue to stir for one minute. Add the white wine and increase the heat. Keep stirring. When the wine has almost evaporated add some of the lobster (or chicken or vegetable) stock or water. Keep stirring, adding stock or water as necessary; don’t let it stick – as an Italian chef told me “Risotto is like an unfaithful girlfriend. Take your eyes off her, she’ll play you false.” Keep stirring with the wooden spoon, don’t move away from the stove. Add stock or water as necessary, a little at a time, stirring and keeping the constituency slightly soupy. Season to taste – if you are using lobster stock or stock cubes of any kind you won’t need much salt. When the rice is almost cooked, add the lobster meat. When the rice is firm but not grainy – the true meaning of the Italian phrase ‘al dente’ – finish with a knob of butter and lay out on a large plate. Grate the zest of two limes over the risotto and serve.

And, please… no cheese for this one.

The above methodology works for all kinds of risotto. It’s not difficult, it’s not time-consuming – approx 25 minutes from chopping board to table. Remember – stand-over/feed/stir and repeat until done.

ON TEST: Lidl frozen (cooked) Canadian lobster

THE WORLD’S YOUR LOBSTER

Fantastic price, but is a fantastic bargain? Lobster at Lidl, €4.99 for a specimen that yields 350g, enough for 2-4 persons depending upon the dish. This mean dude comes frozen, pre-cooked and, though it’s dead as the Celtic Tiger, still scary looking, even swathed in a protective block of ice.

I love lobster. I’ve eaten it, at a quick reckoning, in 14 countries. Best ever? Straight from boat to BBQ in county Wexford. Runner-up, South Australian rock lobster on a beach on Kangaroo Island, kudos to chef Tony McMahon, and washed down wth the gorgeous Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling. And the worst? At a posh resort in Fiji, years ago, the memory of fish-flavoured toothpaste haunts me yet.

Lidl’s lobster comes from Canada, presumably Nova Scotia, cold water territory. Cold water means the lobsters have to jog to keep warm. This builds muscle tone, texture and flavour. No lounging about with the shades, the Stieg Larsson and the Factor 40 for these guys.

There’s a perception that lobster is tricky but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just give these rascals plenty of time to defrost. The pack recommends defrosting 24 hours or by leaving in running water until the ice melts. The eco-freak in me won’t allow such wastage so I left them in a sinkful of cold water and refreshed the water from time to time. Ice melted, I increased the water temperature to ‘tepid’, adding a little sea salt.

Preparing the beasts is not rocket science. Cut off the claws, as near to the body as you can. Whack them lightly with a hammer or the blunt end of a cleaver. Peel off the shell and prise out the meat (using fingers and a metal skewer). Twist off the head. Draw a sharp knife down the underside of the belly, splitting the body into two. Extract the meat, easy-peasy. You can save the half-shells for serving the lobster in but I prefer to collect all the residue and make stock, boiling it up with water and any vegetable trimmings I can find.

Lobster salad with homemade mayonnaise, lobster bisque, lobster Thermidor and a Thai lobster green curry were possibilities that sprang to mind. First time out, I made a risotto, taking a mere 20 minutes, start to finish, mainly because The Evening Herald were sending a photographer and I was time-strapped.

I’ve subsequently cooked the recipe twice for friends and both times it’s been a winner, the Lidl lobster receiving plaudits for both texture and flavour. Now it’s a staple in my freezer.

As that lovable TV rogue, Arthur Daley, said: “Bit o’ this, bit o’ that, the world’s your lobster.”

VERDICT: Good product, well worth the money.  Obviously it will never be quite as succulent and flavoursome as a fresh-caught Lobster from cold waters but it’s a cheaper and a very satisfactory alternative.

Recipe: Lobster and Leek risotto here

Restaurant Review – Wolfe's Irish Artisan Bistro

With a significant birthday to celebrate I decamped to Brittany for two weeks in August, renting a house and gathering my nearest and dearest together to ensure the occasion did not go unmarked (we’re woeful at sending cards and giving presents). In the evenings we took turns to cook. On the last night I fettled a Thai green curry, one of the best I’ve ever cooked. Not, I hasten to add, because of my culinary skills. Simply because the prime ingredients – langoustines, scallops and a huge monkfish tail that glistened like diamonds in a mountain stream – were the finest you’d see anywhere. A joy to buy and a joy to cook with.

In Ireland we have a problem with seafood. We love to eat it. But we rarely cook it at home because it’s (wrongly) perceived as fiddly, even difficult. At the same time, for a nation surrounded by sea, there are remarkably few reliable seafood restaurants.

I found Wolfe’s Irish Artisan Bistro after a quick trawl through the forums on my website www.forkncork.com. It’s on Capel Street, roughly half way between Jack Nealon’s and McNeills if you are travelling by pub and easy to miss as Bangles and I walked past it twice. Telephoning in advance, I had taken the receptionist’s offer of “a nice table upstairs, by the window.” On arrival we were initially disappointed as the ground floor room seemed busy-buzzy whereas upstairs we were the only diners. The room was decently tricked out, though, and the chairs comfortable. As Bangles and I had a deal of catching up to do we soon forgot about the lack of company. Someone has good taste in music. Tom Waits and Nick Cave, damped down as not to impede conversation, entertained us.

I noted with approval that there was a fifteen euro bottle of wine on the carte, not a bad one either. We went medium upscale, taking the always reliable Willunga 100 viognier at €27.Most expensive wine on the list was €34. Bangles nabbed the chicken terrine, following up with the rack of free range pork, my initial fancy until an urge to continue the shellfish-fest I’d started in Douarnenez surfaced. The starter was total ‘me’ – four plump scallops, quickly caramelised and finished with girolle mushrooms, a little cream and a scattering of summer truffles. Bangles’ coarse terrine was tasty yet delicate, served with a rivulet of carrot purée kept the right side of bland with a touch of citrus and garnished with spicy carrot cress, nice touch. I was initially dismayed by the absence of bread, needed for mopping up the delicious residue of the scallops and cream. A call to the personable Czech waiter remedied this but really it shouldn’t have been necessary – it would cost little to provide a basket of bread and should have been put on the table when we arrived.

The pork, an emperor-sized chunk with the crackling on it, came topped with crispy morsels which, the chef informed us later, proved to be slivers of pig’s ear, (don’t shudder, they were delicate and delicious) and robust mustard mash. Though the pork was a gastro-treat in itself, it could have done with some spicy chutney, maybe a little Hungarian style red cabbage or even plain apple sauce to point up and enhance the flavour. My Irish lobster, a monster, did full justice to the cold sea around our shores, a submarine gymnasium where these kings of crustaceans develop muscle tone, and hence texture and taste. It was cooked to perfection, springy but not tough. Lobster is filling food so I didn’t eat too many of the excellent, properly crisp chunky chips. I thought the price of the dish, €38, even given the size, was a trifle expensive. There’s a glut of lobster at the minute and the price per kilo has dropped considerably. Many restaurants are using Nova Scotia lobster (of only average quality), enabling them put it on the menu for under €30. Were I in charge of The Artisan I’d maybe dispense with the chips or just add a few for garnish and keep the price down to around €32.

We shared a passion fruit panna cotta which Bangles thought on the tart side (she has a sweet tooth). For me, the taste was fine. I enjoyed the sharp tang of the fruit, heaped on the top, complementing the mellow cream heavily laced with what I detected was good vanilla.I lost a mark or two for texture. The perfect panna cotta is, to borrow from Paul Simon, one that slip-slides away. This was ’hearty eating’.

Open three weeks, Wolfe’s Irish Artisan is not yet the finished article though it shows much promise. Suppliers, all of excellent repute, are listed on the menu; cooking, by young chef Peter Fisher, is extremely sound; prices are reasonable, extremely so if you shy away from plutocratic items like lobster and scallops. There’s a 3-course pre-theatre for €30. Service-wise, we initially felt somewhat neglected. On the night the bulk of the business was downstairs and in such circumstances there’s a need for real awareness if the restaurant has to keep in touch with diners aloft; this initiative was lacking until we brought the waiter up sharp, after which his head would appear round the doorway at regular intervals. All-in-all it’s certainly a contender for ‘best place to eat north of the Liffey if you can’t get into Chapter One’. The Artisan (full name’s a bit of a mouthful) is a plain, unvarnished bistro, so don’t expect things too fiddly-farty, it’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ sort of gaff. None the worse for that.

Wolfe’s Irish Artisan Bistro, 153 Capel Street, Dublin 1 Tel: (01) 874 9570

RATING

Food ****

Wine ***

Service **

Ambience **

Volume 1 bell

Overall ***

Originally published in The Dubliner, FREE with the Evening Herald on Thursdays

Bentleys

The fanfare of trumpets that announced the opening of Bentley’s led many people to surmise that this restaurant was the one Dublin deserved, nay needed beyond all. A sort of gastro-oasis where sublime food would go hand-in-hand with fair pricing. Bentley’s is the brainchild of Richard Corrigan whom I first interviewed back in 1999. At the time I had no idea how influential he was going to become. I liked the guy. I had him figured for a hearty, unsophisticated mucker from the arse end of Co Meath with a massive passion for the wild and real. Maybe a bit of a push-over compared to the chefs of the moment. Ramsay, Burton-Race, Marco and Tom Aikens struck me as nasty buggers, strutting about doing Victorian mill owner impressions. Nevertheless there was a steel to Richard, an understated positivism – as I wrote, “If he says it’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday.”

Since then things have moved on apace. Richard has become “a name”; if not quite the spokesperson for Irish food, certainly a voluble megaphone in its cause. I’ve got to know him better too; he’s a man who loves life, company and a few scoops. He has a marshmallow heart and many of the innumerable things he does for good causes you never hear about. Richard’s positivism occasionally gets him into trouble; diehard republicans vilify him for “selling out” by cooking for the Queen’s Birthday and redundant battery chicken killers accuse him of killing the industry single-handed, bollocks really.

Anyhow, that’s the man, what about the restaurant? Last Thursday night Sibella and I cold-footed it up Kildare Street from the DART station, passing en route several night-on empty restaurants. Bentley’s in contrast was heaving. We were half an hour early so we wandered upstairs to the Aviator Lounge where I lost the run of myself and ordered a Tanqueray 10 martini. I knew it would be expensive but, even so, wasn’t quite prepared for the €22 charged.

They called us down for dinner on the stroke of 9pm. The dining room is bright and nicely tricked out, with good linen and glassware and there were clear indications that the packed house was having A Good Time. When this venue was Browne’s it had the dullest and one of the most expensive wine lists in town. Now it’s much more interesting, in fact really interesting, but still well expensive – you could eat 3 courses for under €40 but even a modest bottle of wine would almost double the tally. The staff were young, personable, efficient and candid. I enquired as to the quality of the cheapest bottle on the list (around €27) and was told, in commendably truthful fashion “Well, I’m not mad about it.” In the end we took a bottle of Guy Alion’s Sauvignon de Touraine (humble appellation/great producer, a sure sign that the person compiling the list has done their homework) which complemented the food beautifully, if rather dear at €36.

Sibs loved her starter, tiger prawns with puréed chick peas and coriander. Mine was inspired – tiny squid, stuffed with chorizo and organic feta cheese, semi-submerged in lovely herb-flecked liquor that would have made a great soup on its own. I wellied in, mopping up the juices with the bread provided, plain white rolls, though I did notice the guests a course ahead of us seemed to have a fancy selection; clearly Bentley’s had run out of interesting bread by the time we arrived. The tables were quite close together so plenty of opportunities for craic with adjacent diners, which Sibs loves.

I was glad Sibella took the fish pie for I’d heard and read contrasting reports. Well, her ladyship, who makes a mean fish pie herself, declared it absolutely brilliant, with a varied selection of fishy bits under the potato topping. I really, really wanted the John Dory but that too had “gone” so I went a bit bananas and ordered a whole shellfish platter to myself. Even the sight of it made folk at adjacent tables feel stuffed. A whole crab and a half lobster in addition to native oysters, wild mussels, tiger prawns and langoustines, accompanied by shallot vinegar, Marie Rose and mayonnaise represented great value at €45, if a bit out of synch with credit crunch theology. The langoustines were over-cooked, toothpaste textured and and the lobster a tad too muscular (imagine munching Ricky Hatton’s biceps). The crab, in contrast, was simply sensational, an object lesson in how to cook and prepare this exquisite crustacean which should be more widely applauded as one of the great things that come from the sea. I would have liked some brown meat, though. Oysters were great too. Oops, nearly forgot Sibella’s side of spinach, fresh and gorgeous.

When it came to dessert there was no banoffi pie left so we shared a superb tangy lemon tart, which should maybe be served with something other than a raspberry sorbet, which it overwhelmed; good vanilla ice cream would do. The bill was a tad hefty but in truth we could have got away with much less had we skipped the pre-dinner drinks and had I a more mundane main, say €130 for 2.

Bentley’s, 22 St Stephens Green, Dublin Tel: 01 6383939

The damage: €171.60, ex-service for 1 posh martini, 1 G&T, bottle of wine, 2 starters, 2 mains, 1 dessert

Verdict: Overall a pretty good stab at being all things to all people. Well-sourced food, decently cooked and presented. Interesting wines but could do with more sub €30 ones. Enthusiastic service. Magic atmosphere – no background music, hurrah!

Rating ****