Although I’m normally a dedicated carnivore, sometimes I simply can’t resist sweet, juicy crustaceans that leave you feeling light, happy, and refreshed. Crab, Soller prawns and langoustines (cigalas) are among my favourites.
OK…I realise they can be ridiculously expensive and it certainly seems like a massive indulgence to spend so much cash on one ingredient, but that’s exactly why they should be treated with a certain reverence, cooked simply and enjoyed as a special treat from time to time.
This week I spent my entire weekly food budget on a handful of super fresh langoustines in Olivar market here in Mallorca. Being somewhat of a purist, I normally prepare them plainly boiled, in the shell and with a little lemony mayonnaise, some crusty bread and a chilled glass of albariño, but this time I decided to grill them with red chilli, olive oil and mint. I have to say that they were absolutely delicious and I just wished I could have afforded a few more!
I can’t decide if Soller prawns or langoustines are my favoured choice when it comes to seafood, but it’s probably true to say that “Cigalas” have a sweeter, more delicate flavour and are probably the most sophisticated and prized of all crustacea. They are delicate creatures, and their meat is easily overcooked and ruined. Langoustines are in season from late August to May, and fishing only stops in spring to allow for the breeding season. A lot of langoustines out there are not caught using sustainable methods, so try to make sure you only buy organic or pot-caught creatures. When buying langoustines live, check for shiny jet black eyes, a fresh smell of the sea and quick, lively movements. The legs and antennae shouldn’t be damaged, and the shells shouldn’t be marked.
To cook them; Bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to a fast boil.
Add the langoustines, taking care not to overcrowd the saucepan. (Cook in batches if necessary) Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, taking care not to overcook them.
You can tell if they’re ready, by checking the underside of the tail; when cooked the flesh will have turned white as opposed to translucent Remove from the pan and drain before serving, preferably on a big platter with some mayonnaise for dipping, lemon wedges and some salt. Sucking the heads dry is obviously optional but very advisable because there is much flavour in all those juices. Also, do make the effort to crack the claws open and pick out the tiny, delicious morsels of meat inside and it’s obligatory to suck heavily on the shells! Once you’ve spent a king’s ransom on these beautiful creatures…just make sure you get to enjoy every last drop of their amazingly sweet, salty, complex flavour.
GRILLED LANGOUSTINES WITH RED CHILLI & FRESH MINT
Ingredients serves 2
350ml olive oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A handful fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt & freshly ground white pepper
Lay the langoustines flat on a chopping board and, with a sharp knife, saw through their shells lengthways, cutting three-quarters of the way through. Take care not to cut them in half. Open them out in a butterfly style and flatten them down gently with the heel of your hand.
Mix together the olive oil, red chilli, lemon and mint in a large bowl. Season to taste and add the langoustines. Heat a griddle pan place them flesh side down and grill for 1-2 minutes. Turn them on their backs and cook for 30 seconds before lifting them on to a serving plate. Pour over the remaining olive oil mixture and serve with lemon wedges.
Marc Fosh – Michelin Starred Chef