Langoustines are, for me, the king of all shellfish. I wouldn’t mind if I never ate another lobster, just give me tender langoustines and I would die happy. And the good news is that langoustines are easier to buy than ever.
Beware overcooking them – I plunge a handful (6-7 if they are very large, a few more if they are smaller) into simmering water, and count to 30 then lift them out with a slotted spoon. It is essential to cook them in relays of small amounts, because a large amount cooked at once inevitably results in overcooking.
Langoustines benefit from very little by way of adornment. Here are three recipes, all great favourites of our family and friends. And a fourth is so simple, I can give it here: just snip open each cooked langoustine from tail to head and lay them face-down to cool, serve with melted butter with diced garlic and parsley, and a lemon quarter on the side.
Very retro, this, but it’s staging a comeback on menus. Avoid any vinegary content for the dressing, such as tomato ketchup.
12oz/340g shelled langoustines, cut into bite-sized lengths if they are very big
assorted salad leaves – I know that prawn cocktails are always meant to include iceberg lettuce, but they are incredibly dreary to eat, even if they do have a slight crunch to them
For the dressing
You do not want to swamp the langoustines with dressing.
half pint/284ml double cream – you can now buy double cream containing only 49 per cent fat, but which still is double – although that sounds like a contradiction
3 tablespoons Worcester sauce
juice of half lemon
2 rounded tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons tomato purée
about 10 grinds of black pepper
1 level teaspoon salt
paprika – to dust the surface of each prawn cocktail
6 wedges of lemon
Whip the cream adding the Worcester sauce and lemon juice. Stir in the mayonnaise, tomato purée, black pepper and salt, taste, and add more lemon juice if you think it is needed. Mix the langoustines thoroughly with the sauce.
Divide the salad leaves between 6 glasses. Evenly distribute the prawn cocktail mixture between the glasses. Dust each with paprika and put a lemon wedge at the side of each glass on its plate. Serve with bread, toasted if you like, or my favourite, with oatcakes, and for me the choice would be the pumpkin seeded Nairn’s oatcakes.
Prawn, bacon and garlic pâté
Serves 6 as a first course, or this coarse-textured pâté can be used as a luxurious filling for buns for an elaborate winter picnic – we will be eating these in three weeks’ time, around a bonfire for the picnic lunch during our celebratory 40th anniversary of Kinloch weekend.
2 x 200g low-fat Philadelphia cream cheese
12oz/340g langoustines weighed when shelled, and, if they are large, the langoustines cut into small bits about 1in/2.5cm in size
6 rashers of dry-cured streaky bacon grilled till crisp, cooled on absorbent kitchen paper then snipped or broken into small bits
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
about 15 grinds of black pepper – no need for salt, the bacon contributes enough saltiness for most palates
2 fat cloves of garlic, blanched in their skins twice – ie put into cold water, brought to the boil, the water drained off and replaced with cold water, brought to the boil and drained off again. This removes the harsh taste of raw garlic.
Tip the contents of the cream cheese cartons into a mixing bowl. Add the langoustines, the bacon, the chopped parsley and black pepper. Snip the tops off each blanched garlic clove and the skins will slip off easily. Crush each garlic clove and add them to the contents of the bowl. Mix thoroughly, then put the pâté into a bowl to serve, with either warm seeded bread or rolls, or with Melba toast or oatcakes.
Langoustines in saffron and shallot sauce
I like to serve boiled Basmati rice with this, and a green vegetable such as roast courgettes. The sauce can be made a day in advance, then reheated and the shelled langoustines added 2-3 minutes before serving. It is most convenient as well as a delicious main course for a special occasion.
I allow 4 large langoustines per person, more, if they are smaller. Cook them, then when they are cool enough to handle, shell them, as described in the introduction to these recipes. If they are large, and if you like, cut each in half.
For the sauce
6 banana shallots, skinned, halved and diced evenly and finely
half pint/284ml dry white wine – I use a sauvignon blanc
three-quarters pint/426ml vegetable stock
half teaspoon saffron strands
half teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
half pint/284ml double – it must be double – cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Put the finely diced shallots into a saucepan with the wine and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer until the liquid has reduced by about two thirds in amount. Add the saffron, salt and black pepper to the softened shallots, and stir in the double cream.
Bring the contents of the pan back to simmering, and simmer until the sauce is fairly thick – about the consistency of pouring cream. If you are making the sauce in advance, at this stage, cool it and store in a cool place.
Re-heat, and add the shelled langoustines 2 or 3 minutes before serving – beware leaving them for too long in the hot sauce, because they will toughen. Add the finely chopped parsley at the same time as the langoustines.