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A luxury food item if ever there was one, lobsters are renowned as much for their high prices as there eating quality. For years the lobster has been paired with the classic sauces of thermidor, newburg, américaine and mornay but in recent years chefs have become more adventurous using lighter flavourings, and often as part of salad compositions.


Known as homard in French there are two main types of lobster, which are identified by the waters in which they are found; European and American. The European lobster has a smooth, dark blue shell with a purple tinge; the feelers are red and as long as their body. American lobsters are found on the east coast of North America, the most famous of these are found in Maine and Nova Scotia.

Lobster is a crustacean, belonging to the same family as prawns and crabs and, with the exception of the stomach sac most of its insides are edible. They have large oval heads with a spiral shell encased body and short tail. Their claws have pincers, which the fishermen tie with bands to prevent injury to themselves and other lobsters. Their growth rate is very slow; it can take up to five years to reach a length of five inches. They shed their tails at an alarming rate during this period before eventually reaching a size of twenty inches and five kilos for a large one. More often you will find lobsters for sale at a weight of a pound (500g) to three pounds (11/2 kilos)

Always look for live lobsters, this ensures quality, freshness and a guarantee that the flesh will not be over-boiled as the cooked ones often are. Much has been written about the most humane way to dispatch of a live lobster, many believe inserting a knife through the head where the central nervous system runs is the quickest but recent studies suggest that placing them in a deep freezer for up to two hours reduces them to a docile state before being plunged into rapidly boiling water.

Lobsters are best cooked in salted water with the addition of carrot, celery, onion, leeks, bay leaf and peppercorns for added flavour. For a lobster weighing 1 lb or 500g I would suggest ten to twelve minutes is ample if serving straight away or as a cold dish. If you intend to cook the lobster in advance, remove the meat and reheat it later then eight to ten minutes would suffice, this way the slightly undercooked flesh will be cooked perfectly after a gentle reheat in a sauce or under a hot grill.


Content and picture © Miles Collins