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Sous vide lobster with pomegranate gel, fennel, broad beans, flowers and avocado
This is the ultimate dinner party starter and is guaranteed to get your guests talking around the table. I designed this dish to show off the fantastic Canadian lobsters we get from Billingsgate Market here in London. Edible flowers, although not often easy to find at food markets, are now widely available online to purchase as seeds or boxed. We are lucky enough to have a supplier that grows to order and here I have used various flowers, young shoots and micro herbs designed to accompany fish.
Before assembling, I like to leave the plates of gel out on the dining table for when guests arrive so they can admire the colour – it also gets their imaginations going as they have no idea what it is or how to eat it!
Ingredients (for two)
1 lobster, approximately a kilo in weight
2 fennel bulbs
A dozen broad beans, frozen is fine
1 teaspoon of fennel pollen
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 litre of light fresh fish stock (here I have used homemade stock from turbot bones and trimmings)
Edible flowers, young shoots and micro herbs
A spring of thyme
2 bay leaves
100 grams of butter
For the mousse:
The juice of 1 lemon
A small pot of double cream
For the gel:
The juice and seeds of two pomegranates
1/2 a large tomato
Half a glass of apple juice
2 teaspoon of agar agar flakes
Begin by making the gel. In a saucepan, add the juice and seeds of 2 pomegranates together with the apple juice and tomato, sliced thinly. Bring to the boil, adding water to thin out the sauce if required. Add 2 teaspoons of agar agar and remove the pan from the heat, whisking thoroughly to dissolve the flakes. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve or chinois strainer then pour a thin layer on to two dinner plates. Decorate with the pomegranate seeds whilst the sauce is still warm and allow to cool at room temperature. Within 10 minutes, the agar agar flakes will have worked their magic and the sauce will have set into a gel. Transfer to a fridge to keep cool.
Once the live lobster has chilled in a freezer for 15 minutes, put a sharp knife through the head to kill it humanely. Separate the claws from the body and twist the tail off. As the lobster has not been boiled alive, the claws, tail and body will continue to wriggle of their own accord for up to 10 minutes, which is due to the lobster’s nervous system. During this time, stop the tail from curling by placing a weight, such as a saucepan, on top of the shell.
In a large pan of boiling salted water, poach the claws, head and legs for 8 minutes. Once poached, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool then remove the meat from the claws and set aside.
Remove the outer layers, tips and root of both fennel bulbs and slice finely on a mandolin slicer (approximately 2mm). In a large bowl, mix together the juice and zest of a lemon with half a teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the fennel, cover and allow to macerate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Once macerated to mellow the aniseed flavour of the fennel, pat dry and refrigerate.
Pre-heat your water bath to 55.5 degrees centigrade. Vacuum pack the raw lobster tail in a cryo bag with 50 grams of butter, the bay leaves and thyme, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and the cayenne pepper. Add the bag to the water bath and poach for 20 minutes. Once poached, remove the tail from the bag, being careful to retain the juices that have built up during the poaching process. The lobster tail will still be blue and appear raw from the outside, however the meat within the tail will be almost cooked through and tender. If you do not have a sous vide or cryobag vacuum, heat a pan of water on the hob to 55 degrees, checking the temperature with a meat thermometer. Position the pan at the edge of the hob to keep the temperature at 55 degrees throughout the cooking process. Have ice cubes to hand in the event that the water heats above 55 degrees. Replace the cryobag with tightly wrapped cling film and poach for 20 minutes.
Whilst the lobster tail poaches in the water bath, poach the shelled broad beans in the fish stock until just cooked, then transfer to a bowl of ice water with the juice, zest and pulp of 1 lemon to stop the beans oxidising and losing their colour. Once cooled, cut half of the beans length ways and leave half intact.
For the mousse, add the flesh of both avocados, the juice of 1 lemon and the pot of cream to a blender and blend into a thick mousse. Once blended, load the mixture into a mousse siphon and cool in the fridge.
Heat a cast iron skillet and add the juices from the cryobag, together with the remaining 50 grams of butter. Remove the poached tail meat from its shell by cutting through the underside with scissors and add to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and baste the tail in the butter for 30 seconds until it is thoroughly cooked through. Remove and allow to rest, cooling to just above room temperature.
Plate the dish, piling the macerated fennel in the centre of the pomegranate gel, topping with lobster claw meat and a scattering of broad beans. Add slices of the poached tail meat, decorate with the edible flowers and add a generous dollop of the avocado mousse. Decorate with pomegranate seeds, a sprinkle of fennel pollen and season to taste.