07 January 2010


Nephrops norvegicus is a decapod - a ten legged crustacean - belonging to the family of clawed lobsters. Closely related to freshwater crayfish and slightly more distantly related to the clawless spiny lobster, the langoustine spends much of its time in burrows on the muddy sea bed. Around dusk it likes to emerge for whatever langoustines do socially; feeding on molluscs and other crustaceans seems popular. The Venetians, who have fished langoustines from the Adriatic Sea for centuries, refer to them as scampi, a term perhaps more familiar to many. Nowadays, much of Europe's langoustines come from colder, deeper waters, and they are fished from the sea off Brittany and Norway. Scotland, in particular, takes the langoustine trade seriously, producing more than a third of the world's catch from such regions as Loch Fyne and Loch Torridon, much of which is exported around the world.

With regard to appearance, the langoustine's similarity to a miniature lobster rapidly gives away its heritage. Slim and pink, with a body between three and ten inches, the langoustine's most notable feature is its claws. Often as long as its body, this long and skinny pair of nippers would be admirable claws on a full-sized lobster, and even on this smaller cousin one cannot help but feel they could provide a decent nip to the unwary.

Thankfully there's little chance of this, as the langoustine is generally sold uncooked and fresh, but rarely alive. Simple to prepare at home, a light coat of oil can be applied before roasting them in a hot oven for five minutes. More economically, they can be plunged into rapidly boiling water for between two and four minutes. The meat is removed from the tail in exactly the same way as a lobster. Alternately, enjoy the langoustine whilst eating out. The London restaurant serves them, quite simply, in butter with the merest hint of ginger, while Pierre Gagnaire chooses to encapsulate the langoustines in a clear aspic with almond caramel and corn kernels. Either way, the experience may be a little fiddly, but taste-wise it is sure to please...

No comments:

Post a Comment