Lovely langoustines

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]

Last Saturday at Portimão market a few of the stalls had these lovely langoustines at just €12 per kilo. They were of a decent size and screamingly fresh; so fresh in fact that I could not resist eating a couple totally raw as I was prepping them!

To me, the sweet and delicate meat of the langoustine is one of the most delicious things to come out of the ocean. Purists like them simply, and very quickly, boiled in their shells. This is no easy task as a few seconds too long and they turn to mush. If doing this, be sure to plunge them into iced water as soon as they come out of the pan to halt the cooking.

A restaurant I love in Barcelona always has larger specimens on the menu served “a la plancha”. They are halved and grilled for just a few seconds to caramelise the surface of the meat and let it mingle with the flavour of the shell as it roasts – heavenly…

But here in Portugal, like most good things, the larger specimens all get exported; in fact chances are that the langoustines I ate in Barcelona came from here.

The medium-size langoustines in the photo lend themselves perfectly to a more work intensive but no less delicious preparation. Shell them raw then make a stock from the heads, claws and shells.

Just cover with water, boil gently for half-an-hour, then use a potato masher to squish out all the goodness before straining. Cooking the tails just needs a few seconds in a hot frying pan with some butter to quickly caramelise the meat on one side only, still leaving it almost raw.

This time I used the stock to make a risotto and served it with the pan-seared tails. But reducing the stock down with some white wine and cream makes a classic French sauce, flavoured perhaps with some fresh tarragon and a touch of Cognac.