When Iceland got chosen, I sent an email back to the selector saying “Where am I supposed to find fermented moose meat in Leeds?!”. All I could think of was things that had been preserved in some unappetizing way and most of the recipes I came across seemed to bear this out: brined this and dried that with under-flavoured cream sauces. Then I came across a website called Delicious Iceland which reframed it all a bit for me. It seems to be a tie-in site for a TV show and cookbook using top Icelandic chefs to showcase Icelandic produce. So it’s a recipe from Iceland, rather than an Icelandic dish. Close enough for me.
The recipe itself is for langoustines, which the Icelandic call “Norwegian lobster”. Well, the person who chose Iceland for me is my brother, and he loves lobster. LOVES it. Ever since childhood holidays at our grandparents’ house in Florida, he can’t see a menu with lobster on it and not have it. My brother can be a pretty pricey dinner date. I’ve made this modern Icelandic meal with proper lobster in his honour, although not quite honorary enough to invite him over to taste it: I’ll share the recipe with him instead.
Two live lobsters, between 1 and 11/2lb each
New potatoes, parboiled and cooled
Sliced red chilli
Salt and pepper
First you’re going to have to think about how to kill your lobsters. Do a little research before you start, so you can decide what’s important to you. In reverse order of supposed cruelty, you can just drop them straight into boiling water; you can start them in cold water and bring up to boiling; or you can drive a sharp knife or skewer through the head before cooking which is supposed to kill them instantly, and then use whichever cooking method you like. Putting them in the freezer for 30mins to two hours before cooking apparently helps to “sedate” them. Tips: always pick them up by the body, not the tail or claws, and never remove the ties from around the claws before they are cooked. Even when dopey from the freezer, I’m told they can still do significant damage with those snappers.
You’ll need a big pot of water with loads of salt in it – using actual seawater is recommended in most articles I’ve read. Get it up to a rolling boil – this might take a while depending on your pot and heat source. In the meantime, pound a couple of handfuls of rocket into paste with a pestle & mortar and toss through the potatoes in a roasting tin, along with a few glugs of garlic oil. Season and place in a hot oven. Then start the lobsters. Beware the cooking times given on non-US websites. If I’d cooked them for as long as either the BBC or in fact the fishmonger had recommended, I expect they would have been tough and ruined. They’re done when they go from blue-black to that deep brick-red all over. But while they’re cooking, put the cherry tomatoes and chilli with some oil in a pan over a medium low heat.
Take the cooked lobsters out of the water using tongs and put them on a board while you finish the rest off. When the potatoes are looking golden and crispy, take the out of the oven. Toss the tomatoes and chilli through the spuds and then place on plates. Dress with a couple more handfuls of rocket and the balsamic syrup, and season.
You can pull the front claws off the lobster fairly easily but the shells remain hot to handle for a while so watch your fingers. I also separated the tails from the bodies to aid fitting them onto the plates. I had thought before cooking that I had one male (bigger claws) and one female (fatter tail) and sure enough, the female was full of deep red roe. Then I had just a tiny piece of that sweet, creamy flesh and knew I needed melted butter with it, which was quickly and crudely achieved in the microwave.
Whole lobsters are fiddly but fun to eat. We had crackers to get into the shells but did have to take a DIY hammer to one of the male’s claws! So rewarding though. The flavour is unbeatable. The potatoes and tomatoes were a tasty but appropriately deferential support act. Overall, excellent.
B did freak out when I tried to show him the two live lobsters in the fridge and refused to take a picture of me and my temporary pets. He went away and meditated briefly on the hypocrisy of eating things that you wouldn’t be prepared to kill and decided that he could live with this one (not that I was asking him to kill it at any point, mind you). By the time we were ripping into the cooked claws, he was well over it.