If, like me, the current economic climate has renewed your interest in spring cleaning down the back of your sofa in the hope of finding a penny dropped in some un-remembered season of abundance, you’ll love this week’s money-saving recipe.
Using only the finest delicacies fished up from the crystal waters of the North Atlantic ocean which lap these Hebridean shores – may I present Squat Lobster Salad, dressed with a home-made Olive Oil Mayonnaise?
If you happen to know a fisherman, preferably a crabber – and I realise that the chances of this are but small if you live in West Kensington – ask him not to throw back the Squat Lobsters which come up in his pots and are merely a by-catch for him; a nuisance that crawls its way into his wheelhouse, tea caddy, and the trouser-pocket of his apron, unless he chucks them overboard before they get a chance to make themselves at home. He’ll be happy to put them by for you – particularly if you are willing to barter with him for something you may happen to have in abundance… say: some award-winning vegetables; a bottle of your finest home-brew; or (as in my case) five minutes of sarcastic wit.
Even consider paying for them if you have to, but once you own them, throw them heartlessly into a cauldron of vigorously boiling water into which some ginger, onion, garlic, celery, star-anise, fennel, salt or pepper… or all of the above… have already been sacrificed; for three minutes. Strain, and allow to cool in a soft summer breeze, out of the reach of rats.
Now comes the tricky part. When I went to school, most classifications of animal subordinate to man consisted of a head, a thorax, and an abdomen – though creatures are constantly evolving and animals may not still consist of those same body-parts today… but if they do, and you remove the head and the thorax, you’ll find yourself left holding a segmented, armour-plated tail which looks and (as you are about to find out) tastes like a wood louse.
Inside this tail you’ll see a tempting morsel of flesh which you will be filled with the most urgent ambition to consume. At the break, you’ll find about a quarter of an inch (now evolved into 6mm) of flesh is sticking out from the shell. (There will be a small quantity of unpleasant-looking grey-brown liquid adhering to it which I presume came from its stomach, but I am not going to draw your attention to that for fear of spoiling your appetite… I mention it merely to identify which end we’re talking about.) What I do is to take that fleshy bit gently between my teeth, ignoring the colour, and softly tug at the shell with my fingers – it comes away surprisingly easily… usually. When you’ve removed it, dip it into the home-made mayonnaise, and pop it back into your mouth. You will have one of those out-of-the-body experiences whereby you acknowledge that if the good Lord took you right now, you would die happy knowing that you had nothing worthwhile left on earth to achieve.
If you live in West Kensington, ask your Butler to pull this morsel of flesh out for you – but get him to use a cocktail stick rather than his teeth, otherwise he’ll be unable to resist the temptation, swallow the very morsel you were hoping to get, and you’ll face the choice of either starving-to-death, embittered, and resentful; or slumming-it on something from Harrod’s food hall.
Next week we’ll take a fresh look at the common or garden snail.