Langoustines, also known as Dublin bay prawns, Norwegian lobster and scampi are abundant in Scottish waters, with over a third of the worlds catch coming from here. Unfortunately the majority are exported to France and Spain who can’t seem to get enough of them …. so why aren’t we as enthusiastic?
It would appear the main reason is that, unlike mainland Europe, they are extremely expensive to buy in the UK. It’s not that we don’t like them. Up here in Scotland I paid £13 for 8 langoustines, but I’ve heard some London suppliers are charging £40 a kilo! That makes them pretty inaccessible for the majority. Is this a classic supply and demand issue? It depends who you talk to.
There is however no doubt that they are delicious, perhaps a little fiddly to prepare and, granted, all the useable meat is found in the tail, but cooked well they are just amazing.
I sourced the langoustines for this recipe from Campbell Scott of Arbroath Fisheries. While I was there I was lucky enough to get a tour of their smoke house and sample the world famous Arbroath Smokie still warm from the smoker. I’ll be posting a recipe featuring smokies very soon and telling you a bit more about Campbell and the smokery.
This recipe serves 2 as a starter. I cooked mine on the BBQ (surprise, surprise) but all you need is a really hot grill.
8 large langoustines, split down the middle and cleaned (see instruction below)
125g salted butter (don’t worry, you won’t be using all of the butter)
1/2 a red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 piece of stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
A small bunch of parsley, finely chopped plus extra for serving
Juice of half a lime, remaining half cut into wedges for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set up the BBQ for direct grilling or preheat your oven grill to its highest setting.
Prepare your flavoured butter by mashing together the butter, chilli, stem ginger, lime juice, parsley and a pinch of salt. Make sure it’s well mixed and then place it on a sheet of cling film. Now make the equivalent of a Christmas cracker, wrapping up the butter and twisting the ends of the cling film tightly so that the butter forms into a cylinder. Set it aside in the fridge until you need it.
Now to split and clean the langoustines. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t for the squeamish. You may want to wear a pair of rubber gloves, and if you’re making this as part of a romantic meal…..you might want to do this bit in advance! I’ve added a couple of diagrams below which should help with my explanation.
Place a chopping board on a tea towel to prevent it from moving around on your work surface. Now you will need a large sharp kitchen knife, a roll of paper towel and a plastic bag.
Take a langoustine and lie it, tummy down, on your chopping board, spreading the tail flat. Now, if you’re right handed, have the head facing left and tail facing right, take the tip of your knife and place it on the groove behind the langoustines head.
Being careful to keep your fingers out of the way, place the flat of your hand on top of the knife and press firmly down slicing cleanly through the body and tail. Now turn the langoustine around and slice through the head.
Have your plastic bag handy for discarding all the nasty bits. Take a piece of paper towel and wipe away the gunk in the head cavity of the langoustine so it’s nice and clean (told you it was gruesome). You also need to remove the digestive tract, which is a thin black thread that runs along the tail. Just pull it out.
Now repeat these steps until all the langoustines are split and cleaned.
If using the grill, lay the langoustines, flesh side up, on a baking tray and dot each one with a couple of pieces of the flavoured butter and season with freshly ground black pepper. Grill for about 3 minutes until the flesh is opaque and cooked through. Be careful not to over cook them.
If using the BBQ as I did, melt a couple of tablespoons of the flavoured butter in a small pan and set aside. Butter has a tendancy to drip onto the coals and flare up, so I don’t stick it on the langoustines while they cook. Grill direct with flesh side up for 3 minutes, lid on, or until cooked through. Remove them to a serving dish, drizzle them with the butter and season with freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, sprinkle over some chopped fresh parsley and give them a good squeeze of lime juice. Perfect with a green salad and a nice glass of white wine.
Any leftover butter can be wrapped and frozen for future use. It’d be great with any fish or even a chicken breast.