Lobster is traditionally considered a delicacy, pricey and reserved for posh restaurants and special occasions. Surprisingly, in these economic times, lobster is becoming more and more sought after. Food trends and times are a changing with trendy eateries like Bite in Dublin making this gourmet ingredient accessible and contemporary for the consumer. Ditching the heavy old fashioned Lobster Thermidore and serving fresh, succulent lobster burgers or lobster salad rolls at a reasonable price.
Read on and I’ll share their recipe!
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 big lobster for €25 to €30. Cooking lobster is actually very straight forward and I think best served simply with melted garlic butter or homemade mayonnaise. It is so delicate and delicious, it needs very little.
As a lobster lover, I am really looking forward to the Dalkey Lobster, Crab and All That Jazz Festival on the 24, 25 and 26 August. A whole festival devoted to three of my favourite things-pass me my lobster bib! And on 12 to 14 October, the annual Kinsale Gourmet Festival takes place. This is my favourite food event of the year, and it is all about lobster, crab and incredible local seafood. Three days of feasting and fun not to be missed!
Economically, lobster is a very important fishery in Ireland. There is no limit or quota as to how many lobsters can be caught. It is up to fishermen and consumer 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.
The European lobster, Homarus gammarus, is a bottom-dwelling marine crustacean that is widely distributed over the continental shelf of the Eastern North Atlantic from the Mediterranean Sea to the coast of Norway. The centre of its distribution is in the waters around Ireland and Britain. The lobster is a solitary nocturnal animal and is usually found on rocky areas of the sea bed where it hides in crevices amongst the rocks. It is one of Ireland’s most valuable fisheries with sales averaging over €7,000,000 per annum.
It is estimated there are over 1200 lobster fishermen in Ireland, many of whom are totally 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 9-11 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 ten times during their first year of life and the moulting frequency decreases as they grow older. Lobsters moult approximately 20-25 times over the 5-8 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 reaching 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 minimum landing size is currently 87 mm (the length of a business card) carapace length, as adopted by, as this allows lobsters to breed at least once before being caught. The legal minimum size refers to the length of the hard back-shell or carapace. Lobsters at the legal minimum size, 87 mm, weigh approximately 600 grams (1.25 lbs). 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 9 kilos (20 lbs). 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 freezing it. Malcolm Starmer, head chef of Bite, prefers 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.
To cook the lobster, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Drop the lobster into the pot and boil, allowing 8 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!
As promised here is the recipe from Bite ..
Makes 1 burger
½ cooked lobster, shelled
Baby gem lettuce leaves
Crispy red onion rings
Truffle oil or truffle mayonnaise
2 egg yolks
150ml olive oil
150ml sunflower oil
1 cup samphire
Lemon juice, to taste
Sugar, salt and pepper to taste
- To make the mayonnaise, put the egg yolks into a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Beat well with a whisk, electric beater or food processor.. Mix the oils, and drizzle a tiny stream of oil into the egg yolks, about 20 drops every 5 seconds, beating continuously. The mixture should expand and look thick and creamy. The secret is to drizzle in the oil slowly and beat constantly. Blanch the samphire in boiling water for a minute, purée and add the the mayonnaise. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper.
- To heat up the cooked lobster, drizzle over some melted butter and place a slice of raclette cheese on top. Grill very briefly until cheese has melted.
- To assemble the burger start with half the bun and stack up the lettuce, tomato, pickled cucumber, and lobster. Top with crispy pancetta and onion rings. Drizzle over a little truffle oil or mayonnaise.
Enjoy ….. Delish
Irish Sea Fisheries Protection Authority
Dalkey Lobster, Crab and All That Jazz Festival
Kinsale Gourmet Food Festival