Cooking lobster

Kokt hummer

Boiled lobster
Photo: Jonas Ingman/vastsverige.com

There are few finer treats that some freshly cooked lobster. Of course, it is expensive so most of us have to reserve it for a special treat when you feel flush and want to be a little flash. It has always been my first choice for food to celebrate our wedding anniversary because you can't get better than lobster, can you?

The best place to eat lobster is in the soft Swedish sun next to the sea on the west coast. It makes an ideal setting for eating Black Gold, as Swedish lobster is often called. It is said to be amongst the best lobster in the world as a result of maturing slowly in the cold water which gives it a delicate sweet taste and avoids it becoming too tough. Sadly it is priced accordingly! (To read more about Swedish lobster click here.)

Swedes use two main ways of boiling lobster. At Wedholms Fisk, my favourite fish restaurant in Stockholm, they prefer to keep it simple and just cook lobsters in a large pot of salt water. Others prefer to use a court-bouillon flavoured with dill and beer. Both methods are given below.

Homemade mayonnaise is an ideal partner for lobster

However you prefer to cook your lobster I think it is best served simply with some silky homemade mayonnaise. It only takes 10 minutes to make and really isn't difficult, it just needs a little patience! There really is no comparison between shop-bought mayonnaise and homemade mayonnaise, so if you are splashing out on lobster go the extra mile and whip up some homemade mayonnaise to go with it.

John Duxbury

Summary

Tips

• Unless you have a very big pan, only cook one lobster at a time because otherwise the temperature will drop too much when you add the lobsters.
• Note that larger lobsters will turn bright red before they are completely finished cooking. Translucent undercooked lobster meat really doesn't taste good, but if it is overcooked the meat becomes rubbery, so keep an eye on the time.
• Lobster is actually quite easy to cook provided you have a large pot and you are not too squeamish! If it helps, research by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety concluded that "it is unlikely that [lobsters] can feel pain". Probably the best way of minimising any pain for a lobster is to simply place it alive in a freezer for 2 hours, until they almost, but not quite, frozen. This will render it completely comatosed and, so if they are dropped into boiling well-salted water, they will be dead before they wake up.

Method if using just salt water

Allow 1 tablespoon of salt per litre (quart) of water, using at least 4 litres (4 quarts) of water. Bring the water to a vigorous boil and then drop the lobster in head first. (It is important to only cook one lobster at a time because otherwise the water temperature will drop too much.) Once the water has returned to boil, cook the lobster for:

Weight   Cooking time, once returned to a boil
0.5 kg (1 lb) 10 minutes
0.75 kg (1½ lb) 15 minutes
1.25 kg (2¾ lb) 20 minutes
1.75 kg (4 lb) 25 minutes


Ingredients for a flavoured court-bouillon

A flavoured court-bouillon used for cooking lobster

2   live but comatosed lobsters
4 litres (5 quarts) water
330 ml (1½ cups) lager (optional)
50 g (2 oz) large sprigs of dill
200 g (1 cup) salt
1 tbsp   dill seeds*
2 tsp   sugar

 *If you can't get dill seeds use aniseeds (anise) instead.

Method if using a flavoured court-bouillon

1. Place the water and beer in a large saucepan. Add the dill fronds, salt, dill seeds and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.

A comatosed lobster

2. Unwrap your first lobster and remove the rubber bands on the claws with a pair of scissors.

Lobsters being cooked

3. Hold the lobster upside down by the tail and put it into the boiling water with the claws first. Put a lid on the pan and let it boil for:

Weight   Cooking time, once returned to a boil
0.5 kg (1 lb) 8 minutes
0.75 kg (1½ lb) 12 minutes
1 kg (2¼ lb) 15 minutes
1.5 kg (3¼ lb) 20 minutes


4. Remove the lobster with a pair of tongs and let it cool.

5. Repeat with the remaining lobsters.

Lobsters in a dill and brine mixture

6. Leave the cooking liquid to cool to about 50°C (120°F) then put the lobsters back in the liquid, cover and when cold place in the fridge overnight.

A lobster split in two

7. Next, lay out the lobster on its back. Insert a large, sharp knife and press down firmly to split the body into two lengthways. You should now be able to separate the two halves, but you might need to use a pair of scissors to cut through some of the shell.

8. Remove and throw away the pale stomach sac, the gills and the dark intestinal thread that runs the length of the tail. The green liver (known as tomalley) is considered a delicacy. Remove the meat from the tail, and scrape out the soft flesh from the shell. Crack the shell on the claws (use a pair of nutcrackers?).

Cooked lobster served with asparagus and new potatoes

9. Serve the lobster accompanied by dill, mayonnaise or Rhode Island sauce, wedges of lemon and some nice bread. (I enjoy lobster with steamed asparagus and new potatoes tossed in dill, but that is not particularly Swedish.)

Grilled lobster and fries!

Lobster halves about to go under the grill

When asparagus and new potatoes are not available I like to served lobster grilled with fries! Simply do this:

1. Take the lobster and crack the claws with the back of a knife or a mallet. Take out the claw meat. Also take the meat out of the shell. Cut the meat into bite sized chunks and return all the meat to the shell.

2. Place some small pieces of butter on top of the meat, drizzle with lemon and season with freshly ground black pepper.

3. Place the lobster under a grill on a low to medium heat for about 4 minutes until the butter has all melted.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise, fries, a salad and lemon wedges. Delicious!

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