The best start to a New Year I’ve ever had: 1 January, sitting in the Campo Santo Stefano in Venice eating this dish in the sunshine. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so set up for the year to come.
Serves 4 as a starter
- 1 live lobster (weighing about 600g)
- A knob of butter
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 150g dried spaghettini
- 75ml double cream
- A small handful of tarragon, finely chopped
- A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- A small squeeze of lemon
- Salt and pepper
For the stock
- 200g shell-on North Atlantic prawns, raw or cooked
- A splash of sunflower oil or other light oil
- ½ an onion, cut in half again
- A few cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 3 tomatoes
- Mixed stock vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel, mushrooms, parsley, bay leaves etc), roughly chopped
- To make the stock, first whiz the prawns in a food processor for a couple of moments to break them up a bit. Fry them in oil over a high heat for a few minutes, then add the onion, garlic, tomatoes and the mixed stock vegetables. Stir together until the vegetables have warmed up, and then cover with water – about 1 litre/ 1¾ pints. Put a lid on the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down, tilt the lid so the pan is only half covered, and let it gently bubble for 30 minutes whilst you amuse yourself elsewhere.
- Once it’s cooked, drain the stock into a bowl, and really push down on the solids using the back of a ladle so that all the goodness is squeezed out. Pour the liquid back into the pan and boil until reduced by about two-thirds, giving it a good skim along the way.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Put in the chilled, knocked-out lobster and boil it for 10 minutes. Fish it out, keeping the water, and leave the lobster to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Bring the pan of water you used to cook the lobster back to the boil, with a big pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil; keep the lid on.
- Boil the spaghettini in the lobster water until just al dente, then drain and cover. As the pasta is cooking, lay the lobster on its back and use a long sharp knife to split it into two lengthwise. Crack the claws with the back of the knife, put on to a baking tray and spread the butter on the lobster flesh. Put the empty pasta pan straight back on the heat and when it is really hot pour in the prawn stock (helps double-time reducing). Bring to a rapid simmer, add the cream and seasoning, and let it bubble until it is a sauce-like consistency.
- While the sauce is reducing, cover the lobster with foil and reheat in the oven (10 minutes). When you are ready to serve, stir the cooked pasta, tarragon, parsley and seasoning into the sauce. Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Plate the lobster and, like the presentation I had in Venice, use tongs to drape the pasta over and around the lobster’s body.