Salad of Lobster, Fennel and Beetroot with Savoury Blackcurrants
Lavish, summer and sun. Those are the three words that came to my mind when I created this dish. We have not had much of a glorious summer to speak about, but looking at this plate of food I’m feeling a whole lot better.
Every year when the lobster season begins it provokes a lovely warm glowing feeling, so when I received a beautiful and very lively lobster from Pinney’s of Orford recently, I was chuffed to bits. I like getting phone calls from suppliers offering us fantastic and lavish ingredients, but lobsters are not cheap, hence a special dish had to be created.
For the season so far we have had lobster every weekend – we either serve this salad on the menu or I make one of my other favourite lobster dishes called Ravioli of Lobster à la Gordon Ramsay. I love both dishes and although they are both hard work to make, I enjoy preparing them.
While writing my cookery book for the past six months, I have not had much time to cook and have felt slightly withdrawn from the business and the kitchen, so creating this glorious recipe made me feel part of it all once again. I am, after all, very lucky as I am living my dream, writing a cookbook and running our own pub with a restaurant – that can’t be bad at all!
This salad requires a lot of work, but then I only recommend cooking this for special occasions, so it’s well worth all the effort. The whole dish is designed to take you on a journey of different tastes and textures. The sweet new season baby beetroot accentuates the sweetness of the lobster. The aniseed flavour of the fennel is highlighted by using fresh tarragon and blackcurrants in the dish. The blackcurrants hold hands with the lobster and it’s all brought together with a few fresh lime segments.
For the potato and lobster croquettes, you need one of my snazzy vegetable spaghetti swirly machines – please refer to my Confit Salmon recipe for an image and details. The croquettes use up the raggedy bits of lobster plus some of the claw meat, and their texture and warmth with the cold salad is a treat for the taste buds.
For the lobster
- 4 x 450g live lobsters
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large sprigs of fresh tarragon, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 120g skinless boneless fresh sea trout fillet
- 1 egg white
- 50ml double cream
- 1 large Maris Piper potato (150–180g)
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
For the salad
- 24 baby beetroots (about 1kg total weight)
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- 100g (prepared weight) fresh blackcurrants, topped and tailed
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 12 baby fennel (700–800g total weight), trimmed and cut in half lengthways
For the crushed peas with tarragon
- 400g fresh peas (shelled weight)
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 limes, segmented
- 80g fresh pea shoots, washed and drained
- 1 tablespoon caviar (optional)
Prepare the lobster. First, kill the lobsters humanely, then cook them 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 reserve the heads, if you like – they can be used to make a bisque (keep the heads refrigerated and use within 3 days).
Cook the tails first in the pan of boiling water for about 5 minutes or until they are cooked and 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 are cooked and have turned red, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Remove the meat from the tails and claws (reserve the shells to make a bisque, if you like – keep them refrigerated and use within 3 days). Keep the lobster tails whole, but trim off any raggedy bits to tidy them up, then finely chop these trimmings for the croquettes. Finely chop half of the claw meat and reserve this for the croquettes too. Place the whole shelled tails and the remaining claw meat in a plastic container or white plastic tray, drizzle over the olive oil and top with the tarragon sprigs, then cover and refrigerate until needed.
Make the croquettes. Put one-third of the trout into a blender, add the egg white and blend together until smooth, then add the cream and salt and pepper and blend to combine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Finely chop the remaining trout, then add it to the blended trout mixture, along with the reserved finely chopped lobster meat and the chopped tarragon. Mix well, then adjust the seasoning to taste. Divide the trout mixture into 8 equal portions (approx 50g each) and roll each one into a ball, then place on a plate, cover and chill in the fridge.
Use a vegetable slicer to make the potato ‘spaghetti’ (please refer to my Confit Salmon recipe for an image and details of how to do this), then mix the potato ‘spaghetti’ with the clarified butter and salt and pepper. Wrap some potato ‘spaghetti’ around each trout ball, place on a plate and refrigerate until needed.
Meanwhile, cook the beetroots for the salad. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Remove and discard the top leaves from the beetroots and wash the beetroots. Place the baby beet in a single layer in a roasting tin and drizzle with 50ml of the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 1¼ hours or until cooked and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 1 hour, then peel the beetroots and pour any liquid that might be left in the tin into a bowl. Add the cooked beetroots to the cooking liquid in the bowl, then add the blackcurrants, red wine vinegar, fennel seeds, 50ml of the remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to mix, then set aside until you are ready to serve.
Next, cook the baby fennel. Cook the fennel in a pan of boiling salted water for about 6 minutes or until just tender. Drain, refresh in iced water, then drain again and pat dry on kitchen paper. Put the fennel in a bowl with the remaining 50ml olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate, then remove from the fridge 10 minutes or so before you are ready to serve.
Prepare the crushed peas. Blanch the peas in a pan of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes or until just tender, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Put the peas into a bowl, add the olive oil, tarragon, lime zest and juice and salt and pepper and crush the peas using a fork, mixing the peas with the other ingredients. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
Meanwhile, cook the croquettes. Heat some sunflower oil in an electric deep-fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 160°C (or until a small piece of bread browns within 20 seconds in the hot oil). Once the oil is hot enough and you are ready to serve, deep-fry the croquettes in the hot oil for 5–6 minutes or until golden and crisp all over (you will need to cook the croquettes in two batches). Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the croquettes on kitchen paper, season with salt and keep hot.
To serve, thickly slice the cooked lobster meat and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the beetroot and blackcurrant salad, the fennel, crushed peas and sliced lobster meat off-centre on one side of each serving plate, then garnish with the lime segments, pea shoots and caviar, if you like. Drizzle over the beetroot pickling liquid, then place the croquettes off-centre on the other side of the plates and serve immediately.
Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main