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Recipe: How to cook a New Year's lobster, Swedish style

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Recipe: How to cook a New Year's lobster, Swedish style
Looking for something special to celebrate New Year with? Photo: Björn Lindgen/TT
06:59 CET+01:00
Forking out some extra cash on a lobster is a common way to make a New Year's Eve meal special in Sweden. Here, food writer John Duxbury explains how the Swedes prepare it.

Swedes use two main ways of boiling lobster. At Wedholms Fisk, my favourite fish restaurant in Stockholm, they prefer to keep it simple and just cook lobsters in a large pot of salt water. Others prefer to use a court-bouillon flavoured with dill and beer. Both methods are given below.

However you prefer to cook your lobster I think it is best served simply with some silky homemade mayonnaise. It only takes 10 minutes to make and really isn't difficult, it just needs a little patience! There really is no comparison between shop-bought mayonnaise and homemade mayonnaise, so if you are splashing out on lobster go the extra mile and whip up some homemade mayonnaise to go with it.

Summary

Serves: 4

Level: Easy

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking: 25 minutes

Total: 35 minutes

Tips

- Unless you have a very big pan, only cook one lobster at a time because otherwise the temperature will drop too much when you add the lobsters.

- Note that larger lobsters will turn bright red before they are completely finished cooking. Translucent undercooked lobster meat really doesn't taste good, but if it is overcooked the meat becomes rubbery, so keep an eye on the time.

- Lobster is actually quite easy to cook provided you have a large pot and you are not too squeamish! If it helps, research by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety concluded that "it is unlikely that [lobsters] can feel pain". Probably the best way of minimising any pain for a lobster is to simply place it alive in a freezer for 2 hours, until they almost, but not quite, frozen. This will render it completely comatosed and, so if they are dropped into boiling well-salted water, they will be dead before they wake up.

Method if using only salt water

Allow 1 tablespoon of salt per litre (quart) of water, using at least 4 litres (4 quarts) of water. Bring the water to a vigorous boil and then drop the lobster in head first. (It is important to only cook one lobster at a time because otherwise the water temperature will drop too much.) Once the water has returned to boil, cook the lobster for:

Weight                                   Cooking time, once returned to a boil

0.5kg                                     10 minutes
0.75 kg                                  15 minutes
1.25kg                                   20 minutes
1.75kg                                   25 minutes

Ingredients for a flavoured court-bouillon

2 x lobsters
4 litres water
330ml lager (optional)
50g large sprigs of dill
200g salt
1 tbsp dill seeds (or aniseeds)
2 tsp sugar

Method if using a flavoured court-bouillon

1. Place the water and beer in a large saucepan. Add the dill fronds, salt, dill seeds and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.

2. Unwrap your first lobster and remove the rubber bands on the claws with a pair of scissors.

3. Hold the lobster upside down by the tail and put it into the boiling water with the claws first. Put a lid on the pan and let it boil for:

Weight                                   Cooking time, once returned to a boil

0.5kg                                     8 minutes
0.75 kg                                  12 minutes
1kg                                        25 minutes
1.5kg                                     20 minutes

4. Remove the lobster with a pair of tongs and let it cool.

5. Repeat with the remaining lobsters.

6. Leave the cooking liquid to cool to about 50°C (120°F) then put the lobsters back in the liquid, cover and when cold place in the fridge overnight.

7. Next, lay out the lobster on its back. Insert a large, sharp knife and press down firmly to split the body into two lengthways. You should now be able to separate the two halves, but you might need to use a pair of scissors to cut through some of the shell.

8. Remove and throw away the pale stomach sac, the gills and the dark intestinal thread that runs the length of the tail. The green liver (known as tomalley) is considered a delicacy. Remove the meat from the tail, and scrape out the soft flesh from the shell. Crack the shell on the claws (use a pair of nutcrackers).

9. Serve the lobster accompanied by dill, mayonnaise or Rhode Island sauce, wedges of lemon and some nice bread. (I enjoy lobster with steamed asparagus and new potatoes tossed in dill, but that is not particularly Swedish.)

Grilled lobster and fries!

When asparagus and new potatoes are not available I like to served lobster grilled with fries! Simply do this:

1. Take the lobster and crack the claws with the back of a knife or a mallet. Take out the claw meat. Also take the meat out of the shell. Cut the meat into bite sized chunks and return all the meat to the shell.

2. Place some small pieces of butter on top of the meat, drizzle with lemon and season with freshly ground black pepper.

3. Place the lobster under a grill on a low to medium heat for about 4 minutes until the butter has all melted.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise, fries, a salad and lemon wedges. Delicious!

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.

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