Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
Macaroni cheese is one of my mother’s specialties and she used to make it for us on a Saturday evening. I remember sitting in front of the oven watching the cheese bubbling in the glass dish. The best bit was the cold leftovers; dad and I loved eating it cold – ooh, the cold melted cheese and tomatoes always tasted so good!
This particular macaroni bake has nothing ordinary or simple about it, but it has that luxurious comfort food feel to it, just the kind of food that Mr. P and I love to eat.
When I cook this dish, I enjoy every moment as it takes me right back to the years when I used to cook lobsters every day to make the exquisite lobster raviolis for the restaurant where I used to work. It was a daily task performed early in the morning and it was my job to cook the lobsters, pull them apart and prepare the meat for the raviolis. I have a mild allergy when I touch cooked lobsters – my fingers swell up and they itch fiercely. I remember how the boys used to call me a ‘pansy’ for wearing the yellow marigolds, as they thought I could not stand the pain when the sharp bits of shell pierced my fingers, but it was in fact due to my mild allergy.
Ingredients & Method
For the lobster bisque
- 2 x 450g live lobsters
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 banana shallots, sliced
- 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 sticks celery, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 4 white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- a large handful of fresh herbs (such as parsley and thyme)
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 100g tomato purée
- 6 large ripe plum tomatoes, roughly diced
- 200ml brandy
- 300ml dry vermouth
- 1 litre fish stock
- 500ml brown chicken stock
- 200ml double cream
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the lavish lobster macaroni
- 300g raw macaroni
- about 300ml Lobster Bisque (see recipe above)
- 150g mascarpone
- 100g finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed soft herbs (such as basil, oregano, chives and chervil)
- cooked lobster claws from making the Lobster Bisque (see recipe above)
- cooked lobster tails from making the Lobster Bisque (see recipe above)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 20–24 Semi-dried Cherry Tomatoes
- 12 large or 24 small fresh basil leaves, fried
For the lobster bisque, first humanely kill then cook the lobsters to obtain the meat. Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil. Put a sharp knife through the head of each lobster to ensure they are killed humanely. Remove and reserve the tails and claws and set the heads aside.
Cook the tails first in the pan of boiling water for 3 minutes or until they have turned red, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Next, cook the claws in the same pan of boiling water for at least 7 minutes (cooking time will depend on the size of the claws) or until they too have turned red, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Keep 2 of the 4 claws whole, then remove the meat from the other 2 and dice it (reserve the shells). Keep the lobster tails whole, but trim off any raggedy bits to tidy them up and chop this meat. Remove the shells from the 2 tails, then reserve the whole tails and 2 whole claws, place them on a plate and refrigerate. Combine the diced claw meat and chopped tail trimmings in a dish, then cover and refrigerate – this meat will be used for the macaroni and the whole tails and whole claws will be used for serving and the garnish. Reserve all the shells for the bisque.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Put the lobster heads, along with the reserved shells, in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and lightly crush the shells using a rolling pin.
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot and sauté the shallots, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, peppercorns and coriander seeds, with a little salt and pepper added (be conservative with the salt as the bisque can easily become salty), over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Add the herbs, cayenne pepper, tomato purée, diced tomatoes and roasted crushed lobster shells.
Add the brandy to the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then cook over a high heat for 5–6 minutes or until the brandy is reduced and becomes syrupy. Add the vermouth to the pan and cook over a high heat for 7–8 minutes or until the vermouth is reduced and becomes syrupy. Add the fish and chicken stocks, then bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 minutes, removing any scum from the surface with a ladle.
Remove from the heat and carefully pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then return the liquid to a clean saucepan (discard the solids in the sieve). Bring the bisque to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 15–18 minutes or until reduced, thickened, glossy and dark golden copper brown in colour. Stir in the cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Measure the 300ml lobster bisque needed for the macaroni and keep it hot, then cool and chill the leftover bisque (see Cook’s Note for instructions on how to cool, store and reheat the leftover lobster bisque).
Make the lavish lobster macaroni. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Lightly grease an ovenproof serving dish and set aside. Cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water for 8–10 minutes or until al dente, then drain well.
Place the cooked macaroni in a large mixing bowl, then add the measured lobster bisque, a ladleful at a time, stirring to mix and adding just enough until you have a nice juicy pasta mixture that isn’t too sloppy. Stir in 100g of the mascarpone, 50g of the Parmesan cheese, the spring onions, egg yolks, chopped herbs and the diced lobster meat (from the 2 claws and tail trimmings), mixing well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the lobster macaroni into the prepared ovenproof dish, spoon the rest of the mascarpone on top in small dollops and then sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you sauté the reserved lobster tail meat and the 2 whole claws. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan, then add the whole (shelled) lobster tails and the 2 whole claws and sauté over a fairly low heat for 5–7 minutes or until hot throughout.
To serve, spoon the lavish lobster macaroni on to serving plates. Cut the sautéed lobster tails into 5mm-thick slices and carefully cut the sautéed claws in half. Arrange the sliced lobster meat on top of the macaroni, garnish each portion with half a lobster claw, then finish with the semi-dried cherry tomatoes and fried basil leaves. Serve immediately. Serve with a simple mixed seasonal green leaf or garden salad, tossed with a little Classic Vinaigrette, if you like.
Once you have measured the 300ml hot lobster bisque that you need for the macaroni, pour the remaining lobster bisque into a suitable bowl and cool it rapidly over ice. Once cool, pour the lobster bisque into an airtight container and chill in the fridge, then use within 3 days. Alternatively, freeze for up to 3 months, then defrost in the fridge overnight (once defrosted, you may have to thin the bisque down a little with some stock). Reheat the lobster bisque in a saucepan over a low heat until piping hot and then serve as a light lunch with buttered brown bread.