Spiny Rock Lobster
Having lived on boats and islands for many years Christiana Kaluscha has caught and eaten more rock lobsters than most. Here are a couple of her favourite recipes.January 30, 2019
Rebecca MurphyJanuary 30, 2019
Spiny lobsters are also known as langouste and especially in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The Bahamas, sometimes called painted crayfish or crawfish.
Spiny lobsters are found in almost all warm seas, in shallow water, less than 20 metres. They tend to live in crevices of rocks and coral reefs, occasionally venturing out at night to seek food such as snails, clams, crabs and sea urchins. Their body colour varies and is often brightly patterned and their antennas are extremely long.
The Pacific is rich in rock lobsters and diving for them you can sometimes find them under coral heads or in caves during the day, but most of them stay hidden until night.
Soon after sunset the lobsters start moving around on top of the reef and then it is easy to catch them by hand. Lobsters are most active on nights when there is no moon or when there are several hours of darkness before the moon rises. Rock lobsters have a lot of sharp spines and are to be handled with care.
Being an underwater huntress, I have caught and prepared many of them. They are always a delicacy and there are many ways of preparation, but sometimes it is the best to keep it simple and get the genuine taste of the sweet and rich flavour of the flesh.
There are different ways to kill a lobster, but the RSPCA recommended placing lobster in a freezer to send it to sleep before cooking. Once dead, cut the lobster evenly in half from head to tail and remove the tomalley – the soft, green substance found in the body cavity.
You can boil the dead lobster, as soon as they are cooked they change the colour of their carapace into a bright red. It is important not to overcook them! They taste delicious grilled, boiled, prepared with various sauces, and eaten hot or cold and even raw as a tartar or carpaccio. Some of the best flesh is in the legs and one should take plenty of time to crack them and enjoy the feast!
Spiny Lobsters work well with tropical flavours like green papaya, mango, and ginger. Crisp, dry white wines are a great pairing with this dish, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre or an unwooded Chardonnay.
Here are a couple of my favourite recipes:
Grilled lobster with saffron lime butter
• 2 live rock lobsters, about 750 g each
For the saffron lime butter
• 100 g butter, softened
• Finely grated rind of 1 lime
• 2 Tbsp. lime juice
• 1 spring onion, finely sliced
• ½ Tsp. chilli, finely cut
• 4 young Kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
• 20 saffron threads, crushed
• Salt to taste
• Combine butter with all ingredients and set aside
• Prepare the wood fired or charcoal grill, letting it burn down to medium-high heat, 15 to 20 minutes.
• While the grill is preheating, cut the lobster evenly in half from head to tail and remove the tomalley.
• Season the lobsters generously with salt and pepper and place them on the grill, shell side down. Brush each lobster with half with the saffron lime butter and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is just barely opaque and springy to the touch. Turn over for about 1 minute, turn again shell side down and brush with the rest of the butter, grill for about another minute.
• Place the grilled lobsters on plates and serve immediately accompanied by a green salad with red papaya and thinly sliced red onion tossed with a French dressing.
Spaghetti with Crayfish, chilli and garlic (serves 4)
This recipe is a great dish that can be prepared in less than twenty minutes.
• 400g raw crayfish/lobster tails, shelled and cut into bite size pieces
• 2 shallots, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 red chilies, seeded and chopped
• A pinch of saffron
• 200 ml dry white wine
• A handful flat leaf parsley, shredded
• 400 g spaghetti no. 5, always use best quality like DeCecco or Barilla
• Heat some olive oil in a pan, add the shallot, chilli, garlic and saffron and cook for a few minutes. Season well before adding the wine. Bring back to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
• Cook the pasta for 6 minutes. There is an old Italian cooking adage about how pasta water should be as salty as the sea. Try it, the pasta tastes great done this way!
• Once the wine has reduced by half, add the crayfish and drained pasta. Keep reducing until the majority of the wine has gone, leaving you with a slightly thickened sauce and by now the pasta should be perfectly cooked ‘al dente’. ( this should take max. 3 minutes)
• Remove the pan from the heat then stir in half of the parsley, pour on a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and stir
• To serve, spoon generously into heated bowls and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top. To finish, grate a little Grana Padano or Parmagiano over the top.
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