Len and I have been driving through the Australian Outback for the past 3 weeks, part of a 10,000 km round-trip tour from Adelaide, South Australia to Exmouth, Western Australia (see my post Australian Outback Adventure: from Adelaide to Ningaloo Reef). After driving across the treeless, dusty Nullarbor Plain, we finally reached Cervantes, Western Australia– famous for its lobster and fishing industry. I couldn’t wait to pick up a few lobsters so I could try cooking with some of the local produce.
In order to learn more about the Western Australia Rock Lobster industry and to pick up a lobster or two, we first toured the Lobster Shack, a lobster processing plant started by the Thompson family in the 1960s. During the self-guided tour, we learned that the Western Australia Rock Lobster industry contributes about $600 million to the overall Australian economy and is responsible for 1/5 of the lobster output of the country. What impressive stats!
Western Australia Rock Lobsters being processed- “I’ll take that one, please!” photo attributed to planbooktravel.com.au
The processing of the lobsters is highly automated and driven by technology imported from Iceland. First, the live lobsters are placed in cold water to stun them and then are placed on a conveyer belt for grading them into different baskets according to their weight. An ‘A-graded’ lobster is the lightest and an ‘F-graded’ one is the heaviest. I was amazed to learn that the whole process is computerized and the conveyer belt ‘knows’ which basket to direct the lobsters to.
Grading the lobsters according to weight- small ones go to the ‘A’ basket and big ones to the ‘F’ basket
It turns out that the Japanese prefer the smaller lobsters and the citizens of Dubai prefer the larger 2 kg (4.5 lbs) lobsters. I think I’d go for the larger ones, myself!
The baskets of lobsters are then carried to tanks where they are ‘purged’ for three days- given no food and relying only on nutrients from the water piped into the tanks. The lobsters are then packaged in saw dust and other wrapping material and transported to Perth International Airport, where they are shipped all over the world.
Holding Tanks where the lobsters are ‘purged’ for three days
“I’m off to Perth International Airport for shipping to other parts of the world”
With the two lobsters that I then bought, what better way to honor my visit to the Lobster Shack than to make a recipe for Spaghetti and Lobster– to be prepared at my little rented cabin by the beach. Simple enough to be prepared in a small kitchen, yet mouth-watering delicious.
- To prepare the lobster sauce, detach the tail and claws from the lobster body and remove the meat from them (note: the Western Australia Rock Lobster does not have big claws, therefore there’s not much meat in them).
- Gather all the shells together and break them up loosely using a rolling pin or meat cleaver.
- Heat the shells in a pan with some oil, then add the leek, onion, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, white wine and chicken stock- let simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Strain the ingredients- return the liquid to the pan and reduce to 50%; thicken sauce with cubes of cold butter and season with salt/pepper. Add sliced mushrooms (optional) until cooked, then add the chunks of cooked lobster for a few minutes until re-heated.
- Serve the sauce on top of cooked spaghetti and garnish with several parsley sprigs.
- 1 cooked lobster (minimum of 750 grams or 1.6 lbs)
- 1 packet of spaghetti (enough to serve 2)
- lobster shells
- green part of one leek, chopped
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tomato, diced
- 100 ml white wine
- 200 ml fish or chicken stock
- 125 cold butter, cubed
- 6 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
- several sprigs parsley
- Remove the tail and legs from the cooked lobster- remove the meat and set aside. Crush the lobster shells using a rolling pin or meat mallet.
- Chop up the green leafy part of a leek, then add to a pan with some hot oil along with the chopped onion, crushed garlic cloves and the lobster shells. Lower the heat and stir until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste, white wine and fish (or chicken) stock. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and then reduce the sauce to about 50% of its previous volume.
- Gradually add the cold butter cubes and stir until the sauce thickens. Add the sliced mushrooms and lobster pieces to the sauce and simmer for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.
- Serve the sauce and lobster pieces on a bed of cooked spaghetti. Garnish with several sprigs of parsley.