I am a changed woman. I write this having cooked and killed langoustine for the first time. Langoustine is my favourite shellfish (by quite some margin). I feel almost sexually excited even to talk about them! The sweetness and prettiness, the absolutely beautiful texture. The season is short, and is coming to an end. British langoustine are something that the restaurant trade capitalises in, when in season (much like truffle, game, etc). Unfortunately as all restaurants are shut, fishermen have stopped fishing them, as they are not something people usually attempt at home – 1 because people are intimidated by shellfish, 2 because they are expensive, and 3 because like lobster, it is usual to buy your langoustine live, as I did, and most people do not want to have to kill their dinner. I had been (this is pretty sad, but alas these are desperate times) searching high and low for fresh langoustine, to no avail, checking in daily with The Chelsea Fishmonger, and realising much to my dismay that for most fishermen it is simply not economically viable to fish shellfish, if restaurants aren’t buying because unfortunately the nation would rather eat fish fingers, than such an absolutely delicious product.
Finally, the fishmonger gets in touch to say, he has some in, and would I like some held for me. I jumped out of bed like a child on Christmas morning, ran to the shower, put on a particularly pretty summer dress, and loafers (to mark the occasion) and made my way to SW3. As the queue inched shorter, I could see the wonderful fish stall – John dory, live lobsters, tiger prawns as big as your fist, and so on. My order is under the counter in a white bag with my name on, he discretely hands it to me (this is the Chelsea equivalent to a coke deal) and I get some of the prawns because… well… I love prawns. And some extra langoustine to freeze because it’s probably the last opportunity to buy them this year.
Decided to have a stroll around the area. So many beautiful cars. The Mercedes SL (one of the most effortlessly cool cars there is) is really making a comeback, I’m seeing them everywhere. I actually really love the 90’s SL, which you see less as it’s only just becoming old enough to be cool again.
Anyway. I get home and open up my package. 20 or so langoustine are there – all alive, and I contemplate that for the first time in my culinary career, I will be killing something. I have a very firm belief about these things. I am writing this in a pale pink 100% silk nightgown, a the fingers tapping my the keyboard of my laptop are freshly manicured with sparkly tips. So I suppose I am a “girly girl” in some ways. For this reason, people often mistake me for someone who cannot (or will not) get her hands dirty if need be. I can, and if you know me, you know I will! I’ll spare you the details, but I froze a two thirds, then killed and prepared the other third. I believe if you eat animal products you should not shy away from the fact that you are eating something, with a brain, with eyes, with a family (do langoustines have families? Discuss…). To say I enjoyed the process would be too strong, it’s more, I appreciated the process of preparing this most delicious and delicate crustacean myself.
Choosing how to prepare the langoustine is like choosing how to frame a beautiful piece of art. You must give the star of the show the space to dazzle you, you must be sensitive to it’s intrinsic qualities, you must seek to compliment, not to distract or overwhelm. The right accompaniments are like the perfect heel on a beautiful foot – it takes something already elegant and perfect in its own way, and elevates it. I chose to blanch them in hot water, split them (brains everywhere – I screamed!), and then to grill them with nothing but salt, pepper, butter (French) and the tiniest amount of garlic. I served with aioli, and a simple green salad that had chives, dill, and spring onions in it for that perfect delicate spring freshness, and a simple vinaigrette to cut the sweetness and fat of the main dish. My only regret is was there’s lots of meat in the little claws but I don’t have a lobster cracker so had to waste it (first world regrets).
This was my most delicious…
I was going to say this was the most delicious meal I have cooked this year but I’m not sure that’s true. I also think with ingredients THAT good, and a simple preparation, other than timing, you can hardly go wrong. I am missing langoustines at two of my favourite restaurants – Parsons, in Covent Garden, and Hearth, at Heckfield place in Hook. Dining out is one thing I am missing so much! I miss eating and not having to do the washing up. I miss a waiter saying “and would that be still or sparkling water” or “do you have room for cheese before dessert?” (answer is always YES obviously). I miss warm bread, cool cocktails, and getting dressed up, or down, for my dinner dates.
But most of all I miss you!
I am now available for dates, and although there will be no dining out for the time being, there’s no reason we can’t dine in. If you want, I can even smear your cock with garlic butter and pretend it’s a langoustine (just kidding… unless you’re into it!) I can’t wait to catch up, and again thank you so much for all the support, gifts and kindness I have received over the last few weeks.
Kisses and hugs and lots of love,