Indian Lobster, Rock Lobster, Crayfish, call it what you may, they’re unknown to many in this city, and appreciated by very few. This is because they have gone out of fashion for some time now, which puzzles me honestly, because I love the thorny, scaly, beast of a shellfish. This variety of lobster is the only kind we find this side of the world, and it has no claws as one would commonly assume. I don’t let this stop me from going out and buying it.
Lobsters are still considered a luxury in most homes, including mine. My fishmonger, Santu in Khar Market is ecstatic about being paid more than usual for her wares the day I decide to cook it. At a hefty 1200 rupees for three, I know it’s steep, but it can provide a day’s worth of meals if cooked properly. A good cook knows not to adapt a prawn recipe to the Indian lobster, and use a regular lobster recipe instead. Thermidors and Bisques aside, the two recipes I went with for this feature would highlight the lobster’s sweet meat without letting any of that precious liquor from the rest go to waste. One recipe steams the lobster whole, while the other halves it into two and cooks it in the electric tandoor. You could just grill it in the oven, if you like.
The first recipe involves grilling the lobster in the tandoor with a Thai butter to stop it from drying out. It cooks very very fast, so you cannot leave the tandoor unattended. The second recipe is for a silky risotto with a rich lobster stock, wine, and a splash of brandy- pretty darn festive if you ask me.
GRILLED LOBSTER WITH THAI BUTTER
Indian Rock Lobsters 2 (you can buy yours from Scootsy/ The Seafood & Meat Co. if you don’t have access to a fishmonger who can get them for you)
The Flavoured Butter
Butter 100g, plus 1 tbsp, softened
Kaffir Lime Leaves 2
Galangal 1-inch piece, minced
Garlic 3 cloves, minced
Lemongrass 1 stalk, smashed
Coriander 2 tsp, roots and stems
Salt and pepper
To begin, make the flavoured butter by whisking together the softened butter together with the rest of the ingredients. Place in the refrigerator till required.
Rinse the lobsters under cold water and using a very sharp knife, or a cleaver if you have one, slice the lobster into two. Salt and pepper the halves.
Preheat the tandoor. I used the above and below setting for the heat.
Lay the lobsters on the tandoor tray quickly, dot with the pre-prepared butter and close the tandoor door.
Let this cook for 3-5 minutes and check if the lobster is done. You don’t want the lobsters to overcook or dry out.
Squeeze over some lime juice and serve immediately
Note: If you want to make the following risotto recipe on the same day, and bought 3, like me, after you’re done with lunch, get started on a stock. Roast the empty lobster shells briefly- 10 minutes over high heat. Then, in a stock pot, put the carcass of the lobsters you ate before, and start on a stock with 1 carrot, 1 celery stem, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tomato and top this up with cold water, and simmer the stock for an hour. Finish with a few sprigs of thyme and some chilli flakes.
Indian Rock Lobsters 1 (you can buy yours from Scootsy/ The Seafood & Meat Co. if you don’t have access to a fishmonger who can get them for you)
Arborio Rice 100g
Lobster Stock 1 litre (see note above)
White Onion 2 small or 1 big, finely chopped
White Wine 150ml
Brandy a splash
Thyme sprigs from 1-2 stems
Salt and pepper
Tabasco to serve
Start by steaming the whole lobster in a large pan. Fill the pan with two inches of very salty, almost-pasta like water and put a steamer rack at the bottom. Bring it to a boil. Carefully lower the lobster into the pan and follow the cooking guide below.
Follow the following steaming guide for your lobster:
450g of lobster – 10 minutes of steaming
550g of lobster – 12 minutes of steaming
680g of lobster – 14 minutes of steaming
800g of lobster – 16 minutes of steaming
900g of lobster – 18 minutes of steaming
After steaming, remove the lobster and pull out the tail and set aside. Pick on any remaining bits of meat to add to the risotto later.
For the risotto, in a casserole, start with the butter. Heat half the butter and add in the chopped onions and let it cook over low heat till softened.
To this, add the arborio rice, 1/2 tsp of salt to start with, and toast the rice till it starts to stick to the pan. Splash in the white wine and let it simmer till the rice has absorbed all the wine. Splash in the brandy, and again let the rice absorb this.
Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and simmer till the rice has absorbed the stock before adding in the next ladleful. Don’t stir too often because you’ll damage the grain, but do stir. You want the rice to cook till there’s still a bite left to it.
Add in the steamed lobster meat, as well as the whole tail when you feel the rice is nearly done and let it heat through for a whole minute, or two. Taste for salt.
To finish the risotto, add in the reserved butter, top with some thyme sprigs, sprinkle over some chilli flakes and serve with a side of tabasco.