Langoustines

The Scottish langoustine, also known as nephrops norvegicus, is an example of a delicious and sustainable seafood fished year-round in the UK. Caught mainly off the coast of Scotland by bottom trawling, langoustines live in burrows and only come out to feed or mate.  This makes over-fishing difficult and there is little by-catch.

The only problem, if you live in the UK, is that most large live langoustines are exported. In 2006, 40,900 tonnes of langoustines worth around £90m were landed by Scottish boats. Of this catch, 21,500 tonnes were sold live abroad, mainly to Spain, Italy and France. Most langoustines sold in the UK are smaller and destined for a less noble fate. Breaded, fried and frozen, they are served as scampi.

Scampi and chips can be wonderful but fresh langoustines are on a different level in terms of flavour. And some commercial scampi contains precious little langoustine. Even a well known brand like Young’s classic whole scampi is only 38 per cent langoustine, a figure which includes 10% added water. In some pubs, you can be served ‘scampi’ that is almost langoustine-free!

Fortunately, more fishmongers are now selling live langoustines. A high turnover is important as they don’t live for that long when out of the sea. Some online suppliers can also deliver them, such as The Scottish Fishmonger or finefoodspecialist.co.uk.

Langoustines at wholesale prices are a relative bargain. If you live in London, head to Billingsgate Fish Market near Canary Wharf, early in the morning. A 4kg box (pictured below) will set you back around £100. Split a box with friends, or eat as many as you like, pan fried and served with a sauce made from some of the heads.

Recipe feeds 6, served with some carbohydrate – deep fried or sauteed potatoes work quite well.

 

36 live langoustines (approx 2kg)

Salt

Olive oil, for cooking

 

For the stock:

2 tbsp olive oil

Heads of 12 langoustines

1 onion, 1 peeled carrot, 1 stick celery, 1 leek, all diced

Half a tin, or two fresh chopped tomatoes

3 peeled cloves of garlic

1 fresh bay leaf

1 small bunch parsley

100ml white wine

1.5 litres water

 

For the sauce:

500ml stock

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 large shallots, finely chopped

1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped

3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar, or sherry vinegar

 

Remove the heads from 12 langoustines. Heat the oil on a medium heat, add the langoustine heads and cook for 5 minutes, mashing the heads with a spatula. Then add the vegetables and tomatoes, cooking for 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Then add the water and herbs and bring to the boil, uncovered, simmering for 1 hour.

Strain the stock, you should have around 500ml of liquid left, and put it into a pan to reduce until you have around 200ml. The resulting sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Leave the sauce to cool slightly and add the tomatoes, shallots, parsley and balsamic vinegar. Mix well and warm through, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut the langoustines in half lengthways. Heat a large pan (a paella pan is ideal) to medium-high with a little olive oil. Season the langoustines with a little salt and fry, flesh side down, for a minute. Serve the sauce with tomatoes on top of the langoustines and the fried potatoes on the side.

To drink, a crisp white wine with a hint of oak would be perfect, like this chardonnay from Burgundy: Bourgogne Blanc Pierre Morey 2008, available from Davy’s.

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