Spaghetti with Lobster- the Australian experience

 

Spaghetti with Lobster Sauce

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

Lobster Shack

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

Grading lobsters

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.

 The Method:

  • 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.

Breaking up the Lobster Shells

  • 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.

 

…. 

Spaghetti with Lobster
Serves 2
Spaghetti with chunks of fresh lobster and a delicious homemade lobster sauce.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cooked lobster (minimum of 750 grams or 1.6 lbs)
  2. 1 packet of spaghetti (enough to serve 2)
For the lobster sauce
  1. lobster shells
  2. green part of one leek, chopped
  3. 1/2 onion chopped
  4. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  6. 1 tomato, diced
  7. 100 ml white wine
  8. 200 ml fish or chicken stock
  9. 125 cold butter, cubed
  10. salt/pepper
For the garnish
  1. 6 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
  2. several sprigs parsley
Instructions
  1. 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.
For the lobster sauce
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Serve the sauce and lobster pieces on a bed of cooked spaghetti. Garnish with several sprigs of parsley.
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Lobster Chartreuse – from my Paris balcony

 

Lobster

It’s not easy photographing food inside a small Paris apartment. I don’t have the advantage of the large expanse of light coming in from my living room window in Australia. There’s just a small kitchen window here next to my work bench and when the sun passes over this area, I then walk 15 steps to the other side of the apartment to catch the light from my little front balcony. So it’s here that I photographed my next dish Lobster Chartreuse.

This recipe is an adaptation from a dish we learned during the advanced course at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. We weren’t told why it is called ‘Lobster Chartreuse’. Chartreuse is the name of a liqueur, however we didn’t use any of that in the recipe. Anyway, it’s a catchy name, so let’s just leave it at that.

This recipe pairs freshly cooked lobster and a rich sauce with fresh fruit and candied orange and lemon peel.  It appeals to most of the senses: visual, smell and most of all, taste- so you can have it all!

I used fresh lobster that I bought from my local Paris fish monger, but you can use already prepared lobster meat. The recipe is a bit fiddly, requiring making a fresh sauce and then assembling the carrot and radish pieces inside the ring mold. But, if you want to impress your guests or family on a special occasion, this is it! 

LOBSTER CHARTREUSE

Ingredients

  • 1 Lobster (live or fresh)
  • 1 large leek (white part)
  • 1 long daikon radish or 2 smaller round ones
  • 2 carrots
  • softened butter for the ring molds

For the Mousse stuffing

  • 60 g white fish meat (raw)
  • 1 egg white
  • 60 ml cream
  • salt/pepper

For the candied orange and lemon peel

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • syrup

Lobster Sauce

  • shells from the lobster
  • green part of the leek, chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 150 ml fish or chicken stock
  • salt/pepper

Garnish

  • 100 g baby spinach leaves
  • candied orange and lemon peel

Directions

  • Prepare the lobster: there are several ways to ‘terminate’ a lobster, but I used a large knife to cut through its head. Separate the head from the body and then separate the large claws from the body. Place the body and claws in boiling water; cook the body for about 5 minutes and the large claws for about 7 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool.
  • Remove the meat from the body and tail section by turning it over and cutting through the lobster’s ‘underbelly’ using kitchen scissors and then removing the meat.

Cut through ‘underbelly’ of lobster to remove the meat

Lobster (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

  • To remove the meat from the large claws, some people advise cracking them open using the back of a large knife. This didn’t work for me since the claws were very thick and hard. Instead I cracked them open by using a medium-sized rock from the garden (smashing down on the claws). My husband gave me this brilliant idea, I was at a loss of what to do next!
  • Prepare the lobster sauce: chop up the green leafy part of a leek, then dice 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 onion and 1 tomato. Add these ingredients to a pan with hot oil, then add 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.

 Add the lobster shells to a pan with the vegetables, wine and tomato pasteLobster 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Prepare the candied orange and lemon peel: cut the orange and lemon peel into very fine julienne slices. Bring to boil 1 cup water with 3/4 sugar to form a syrup. Cook the orange and lemon peel in the syrup until they become soft and candied.
  • Prepare the mousse stuffing: place the raw white fish (I used whiting) into a blender, along with the egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth then add the cream. The stuffing should hold together like a smooth paste.
  • Slice the white part of a leek into thin circles about 1/4 inch wide. Place them in a single layer into a pan with a little butter and water. Cook them over low heat for several minutes until they are softened.
  • Slice the carrots and daikon radish into thin strips about 1/2 inch wide and the height of your ring mold. Cook in simmering, salted water until the veggies are cooked ‘al dente’- with a bit of a crunch still remaining in the texture.
  • Assemble the ingredients in the ring mold: butter the inside of your ring mold with softened butter. Place the mold on top of a piece of plastic wrap and then cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of your mold. Place the carrot and radish strips vertically inside the mold, alternating between the two and overlapping the strips. Bring the plastic wrap to fit up over the sides of the mold. You will be placing this mold into a warm water bath (bain marie) to cook the lobster chartreuse.

  Alternate the carrot and daikon radish strips inside the ring mold

  • First, place a layer of the cooked white leek circles on the bottom of the mold, then add a layer of the mousse stuffing, followed by a layer of loose lobster meat (retain the meat of the lobster tail and claws to decorate the plate). Add a bit of the reduced lobster sauce the repeat the whole process.

Layer the inside of the ring mold with white leeks, mousse stuffing and lobster meat.

  • Finish with a thin layer of the mousse stuffing on top. Bake in a bain marie 180 C (360 F) for about 15-20 minutes until the top part of the mold becomes firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes and release the lobster chartreuse from the  ring mold.

Finish with a layer of mousse stuffing on top- place in bain marie to cook in oven

  • To plate the dish, add a layer of cooked baby spinach on the plate. Place the ring mold on top of the spinach and gently remove it. Place some of the candied orange and lemon pieces on top, lay the meat from the lobster body and claw on the side of the plate. Place a few orange slices on the side and arrange some of the reduced sauce around the lobster pieces.

 Lobster