The Crooked Billet

Paul’s Lobster Thermidor

Serves 2

Paul’s Lobster Thermidor

Imagine. Relaxing in the pretty, country garden of the Crooked Billet, beads of condensation running down a cold glass of Sancerre. Plump, succulent English lobster – just cooked. I’ve done all the messy work teasing the meaty crustacean from its shell. Just-picked salads from the green house, lemon, mayonnaise. Dreamy al fresco dining at it’s best.

Escoffier can lay claim to inventing the original dish – a few years ago as the only British chef in a cookery competition, Nantes, Loire Valley, I won a trophy for a lighter & very English version of the French classic thermidor. Here’s the recipe…

1 fresh medium British lobster (approx 750g)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped shallot

8 button mushrooms, finely sliced

1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

50ml dry Vermouth

300ml crème fraiche

100g grated mature cheddar cheese

½ tsp Coleman’s English mustard powder

Malden salt

Best to buy your lobster alive & clicking to guarantee freshness – order one through any of our local fishmongers: Frosts in Reading, Machins in Henley, or Phil Bowditch, Wilton Farm, Little Marlow.

To kill & cook, place your lobster alive in the deep freeze for a couple of hours which will render Larry completely comatosed then drop him into your largest saucepan of rapidly boiling water – 15 minutes for 750g, thereafter fish him out & cool in a bucket, pan or sink of cold tap water.

To dress, lay it belly down on a chopping board, twist off the knuckles & claws, crack with a hammer. Remove meat. Split the head & body down the middle with a heavy knife. Remove all the yuck – so all you’re left with are 2 perfect, moist, meaty halves of tail meat; cut this into 2cm chunks. Reserve the shells.

Gently sweat the shallot, mushroom, parsley & tarragon with the oil in a small saucepan for a few minutes, add the vermouth, allowing the alcohol to simmer off for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add crème fraîche, half the cheddar & Coleman’s, stirring together evenly. Fold in the lobster meat, season.

Arrange the lobster mixture in the shells, sprinkle with remaining cheese, place on a baking sheet & place in pre-heated 180°C oven for 10 minutes until hot & golden. Overdo it & its ruined & chewy.

Serve with green salad & crusty bread.