This lobster stew comes alive with a pinch of cayenne pepper.
A rich little stew, to be sure.
Lobster stew (serves 2)
2 x 400g (approx.) live lobsters, preferably female
75g best butter, such as that from Brittany with sea-salt flakes
1 small clove garlic, crushed
100ml medium sherry (Amontillado, say)
500ml Channel Islands milk
200ml whipping cream
A generous pinch or two of cayenne pepper (even better, piment d’Espelette) and the same of paprika (not smoked, please)
Several sprigs of dill
Just cover the lobsters with cold water and add a level tablespoon of salt. Bring up to a simmer and then switch off the heat. Leave them submerged for 5 minutes and then immediately plunge them into a large bowl of heavily iced water. Remove after about 10 minutes and drain in a colander.
Split the lobsters in two lengthways using a sharp, heavy-bladed knife and remove the gritty stomach sac from the head. Crack the claws with the back of the knife and extract the flesh. Do the same with the tail meat and set both to one side, on a plate. Reserve the shells.
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Melt the butter in a roomy pan and add the lobster carcases. Stir them around over a low heat until they become very red and are smelling just marvellous and shellfish-savoury. Stir in the garlic, allow it to sizzle a bit, then pour in the sherry. Allow to bubble for about 10 minutes and reduce a little.
Now, pour in the milk and cream, stir in the spices and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a colander into a large bowl and leave to drip for a good 5 minutes or so. Wipe out the pan and strain the resultant creamy liquor into it through a sieve. Discard the exhausted lobster shells.
To finish the dish, very quietly reheat the lobster meat in the soupy sauce, stir in the dill and check for seasoning. Decant into warmed bowls, allowing the claw meat to perch on top, just for the look of the dish. Serve with a simple rice pilaf.
Don't be put off by the spider crab's Martian-like glare. The spiky shellfish are delicious and should be far higher
Fennel is a natural companion to fish.