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The world's your lobster.

Byline: By Bill Oldfield

They're sensitive to you killing things on radio. I don't mean dramatically like in a play or the reading of a book. No, I mean actually killing things, dead.

A few years ago I was invited to demonstrate how to prepare and cook lobster on a local radio station. I don't know what they expected but they certainly seemed surprised when I turned up with a crawling crustacean and there was much debate about the sensibilities of the listening public and the potential damage to the ratings.

Management huddled into conference, emerging now and then with questions: how was I going to kill it? What would the listeners hear? Do lobsters scream?

It's incredible to think how long we've been eating this prehistoric looking shellfish and most people still know so little about its preparation, cooking and eating. Lobster's usually considered expensive and in comparison to the average dish it is.

But when you think how much effort goes into catching each one they're actually remarkably good value particularly considering how special a food it is. And here in the North-East we're luckier than most because the best lobsters in the whole world are caught in the cold waters of Northern Europe. It's from here that we get the common or blue cold-water lobster which contains the sweetest and richest of all seafood.

As well as unsettling radio personnel, killing lobsters presents other problems. The nervous system of a lobster is spread throughout the body and doesn't focus in one place as ours does in the brain; rather in two processing centres. Remove our head and we don't last long but that's not so with a lobster. Various methods are suggested such as cutting the lobster lengthways, inserting a knife into the back of the head or plunging it straight into boiling water ( none of which I'm overly happy with as they all seem to result in more suffering than necessary.

My favoured method is to place the lobster in a freezer for a couple of hours after which, unconscious, it can be boiled. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil using about 175g of salt to two litres of water. Place the lobster in the pan, cover, bring back to simmering point and cook for 15 minutes for the first 500g and 5 minutes more for each additional 500g. Remove and allow to cool until it can be handled.

For the following recipe you'll need to halve the lobster. First snap off the claws and legs. Then, placing the shell against the chopping board and using a large sharp knife, slice the lobster in two lengthways ( you may need to tap the back of the knife with a mallet or rolling pin to get through the shell.

Discard the white gills (don't worry, this is all obvious), use a small spoon to remove the dark intestinal vein which runs into the tail and also the small sack which sits in the head. Don't discard the green creamy liver in the head or any red coral or roe found in the female lobster as they're all edible and delicious.

And did I kill a lobster live on the radio? Not exactly. Management, and possibly I, lost our respective bottles and we agreed that I'd do it while they cut away for a record. Even though it wears it on the outside, at least the lobster has a backbone.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 2, 2005
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