As a meat eater who is concerned about animal welfare, I’ve always thought that if you’re going to eat meat you should;
A) be aware of where your food comes from and
B) be willing to humanely kill an animal that you’re about to eat
Aside from a few mackerel here and there, I’ve never had the opportunity to do this and despite my ethical standpoint, I’ve never truly fancied slaughtering a lamb.
With that in mind, I decided to buy a live lobster to prepare and serve on our first Xmas day in Sydney.
On Christmas Eve, armed with a cool box, I took a cab down to the heaving Sydney fish market in Pyrmont and went on a hunt for lobster. The first thing that struck me after locating the tank of live lobsters was their sheer size – I decided that one of these things was enough to comfortably feed myself and my girlfriend as a main course. The second thing that struck me was the price, which firmly ratified my decision.
After some internet research I discovered that instead of keeping Mr. Pinchy in the bathtub overnight (as The Simpsons had taught me) I needed to wrap him up in damp newspaper and tuck him up with an ice pack in the drawer in the bottom of my fridge. The chap had been alarmingly active in the market and continued to move around after the trip home (a sign of freshness I’m told). Thankfully a cold, damp environment makes lobsters docile, sending them into a deep sleep. This makes the act of despatching them somewhat less horrifying.
On Christmas day, after a night of uneasy sleep filled with deep sea dreams, I was eager to get the deed done. Apparently, the most humane way to kill a lobster is to render it unconscious (through keeping it in the fridge overnight or placing it in a freezer for a few hours) before thrusting a large knife downward through the top of the head, and then pulling the knife forward to split the head in two down the middle. This was not something I relished doing, but I have to say that it wasn’t as traumatic as I expected. There was little mess and any trepidation was tempered with the relief of getting the act over and done with.
I placed the deceased lobster into a large pot of boiling water with some fennel, carrots, celery and bay leaves for 4 minutes. Once removed and cooled, I removed the tail from the head, split the tail in two down the middle and barbequed it on each side for 4 minutes (shell side down first). Live lobsters available in South East Australia are Rock lobsters, aka Spiny lobsters. They are large and have a great deal of meat in the tail, but they do not have claws. The unfortunate lack of claw meat has been counterbalanced by the fact that I now have a large tub of lobster stock in the freezer – ready for a risotto…
Keen to do the poor crustacean justice I followed a recipe for lobster salad from one of my favourite chefs – Yotam Ottolenghi. The lobster was tossed with barbecued fennel, radicchio (substituted for chicory, which I couldn’t get hold of), grapes (also barbecued, until the skins blister slightly) and a dressing of orange juice, dill, basil and Sambuca (for which I followed the “one for you, one for me” rule).
To go with our salad we also had a picnic loaf – a hollowed out loaf stuffed with layers of roasted vegetables, herbs and mozzarella. For this I followed a recipe from the Queen’s favourite marble-eyed wife abandoner, Paul Hollywood. The interesting thing about the recipe is that half the hollowed out bread is turned to breadcrumb and mixed with sherry vinegar (substituted for half white wine vinegar, half sherry – for which I also used the “one for you, one for me” rule) before being mixed with each of the elements of the layered filling. This gives the loaf flavour and also a sturdy texture, after spending the night wrapped in cling film in the fridge.
Both the salad and the loaf were delicious and I would certainly recommend the recipes. I’ll definitely do them again, but to be frank I’m in no rush to spend another night with a live animal in the fridge!
You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @jonnywhitehead