Some months ago I was having dinner with a group of food writer friends when one let slip that he went lobster fishing and in a rash moment offered to take me with him. It's a comment he has probably regretted since.
Mike Warner, who blogs at East Coast Avocet, is a passionate advocate for British fishermen and seafood. Like me, he has a particular weakness for lobster.
I haven't so far turned up at the docks wearing waterproofs, a yellow sou'wester and a hopeful expression, but I have commented wistfully every time he has posted a picture of big blue crustaceans. I know, I have no shame.
Worn down by my constant hints ... and because he is a kind and generous man ... Mike offered me a couple of his freshly caught lobsters. To my delight, he had already cooked them, which left me with the pleasure of finding the best way to serve them.
I like them simply grilled, with perhaps some herby butter or lemon mayonnaise, but I was so anxious to do these justice I threw the kitchen sink at them. In retrospect putting mango in the salad was an ingredient too far ... I'd suggest the delicately pickled cucumber (delicious) is enough of a counterpoint.
Or skip the cuke and make the mango into a piquant salsa (peel, cube, add lime juice, a pinch of salt, torn basil leaves and, optionally, a little chopped red chilli).
I'm assuming, perhaps rashly, that you have a cooked lobster and know how to shell it. If you don't, there are lots of how-to videos on YouTube. I only have two pieces of advice ... wear a pinny and don't jettison the skinnier legs.
Pull them off, break them at the joint and gently run a rolling pin or empty wine bottle down them. The meat will pop out of the end in one piece like a razor clam with salt on its tail. If you can, keep the shells to give fabulous depth to a fish stock ... you can freeze them until you need them.
Thanks to Mike we were able to gorge on a lobster apiece but cut the tail into medallions and two of them will feed four.
Lobster Salad (serves 2-4)
2 cooked lobsters totalling about 750g
1 or 2 ripe but firm avocados (half per person)
1-2 tbsp lemon mayonnaise
Edible flowers, to garnish
For the dressing:
1 tspn mirin
1 tspn rice vinegar
1 tspn yuzu* or lemon juice
Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
For the pickled cucumbers:
About 1/2 cucumber
2 tspn white sugar
Scant 1/2 tspn salt
2 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Make the pickled cucumbers first as they need to sit in the fridge overnight. Using a swivel peeler, cut the cucumbers into thin ribbons, avoiding the seedy middles. Place in a bowl.
Put the vinegar in a small pan, add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Don't let it boil away: as soon as it starts to bubble, pour it over the cucumbers. Cover and chill in the fridge.
Prepare your lobsters, keeping the meat from the tail and the big claws to one side. Cut the remaining meat into small pieces and place in a bowl.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone. Scoop out the flesh with a dessertspoon and dice it to the same size as the lobster. Add to the bowl with the lobster pieces and mix through just enough lemon mayonnaise to bind it (I rather overdid the quantity). Home-made is lovely but the mayo police aren't going to get you if you put a squeeze of lemon juice in the stuff from a jar. Check the seasoning and pile the mixture back into the avocado shells.
Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and dress the leaves lightly, reserving a little with which to brush the lobster tails and claws.
To serve, pile a small mound of salad leaves on each plate. Place a filled avocado shell on each plate and drape a lobster claw on top. Sprinkle with a dusting of cayenne or paprika. Arrange the tail meat, brushed with the reserved dressing, alongside a pile of the pickled cucumber (or mango salsa). Scatter with a few edible flowers, eat and, I hope, enjoy.
*Yuzu is a citrus which tastes like a mixture of mandarin, lemon and grapefruit and can be expensive to buy in juice form. Given the small quantities here, if you don't have it, just substitute lemon juice.