Christmas special: Catch of the day

Lobster

Unfortunately there aren't any lobsters in the Regent's Canal - well, as far as I could tell - but they can be found in the Thames Estuary and surrounding waters. I think lobster is best grilled. It adds a smokiness to the sweetness of the flesh which works very well. All it needs is a sharp sauce to cut through the richness. I would be more than happy if I was served this on Christmas day instead of turkey. I might need the trimmings on another plate but it would be a feast for sure. At Konstam we have a large charcoal grill, but a barbecue is ideal, or failing that, a griddle pan. Make sure it's piping hot when you place the lobsters on it.

Serves 4

2 large, live lobsters
3 shallots, finely diced
2 tbs chervil, roughly chopped
1½ tbs runny honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs red wine vinegar
9 tbs cold pressed rapeseed oil or olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Combine the shallots, vinegar, mustard and honey in a bowl. Gently whisk in 8 tablespoons of the oil. It's nice if it emulsifies - personally, I quite like dressings that separate out.

Drive the point of the knife briskly into the shell at the cross on their back. This should cut straight into their brains, killing them as quickly as possible. Using a big, sharp knife cut the lobsters in half, lengthwise. Brush with oil and place, flesh side down, on the very hot grill or griddle and cook until well seared - for about 2 or 3 minutes - then turn them over and cook, shell-side down, until the shell is properly pink and the lobster is just cooked through.

Season the flesh well and place on the four plates with the flesh facing upwards. Stir the chervil into the sauce and drizzle a tablespoon or two over each lobster before serving. Put the extra sauce in a little bowl for the table.

Don't forget a finger bowl of warm water with lemon slices in it and proper napkins.

Crab pâté

Crab can be found in the waters of the Thames estuary, as well as in most of England's coastal waters. However, if you're in a real hurry and have an unshakable craving for crab pâté then fresh, good quality pre-picked crab meat can be used for this recipe.

Serves 4 as a starter.


One medium to large live crab or meat from one medium to large crab

125g unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1 blade of mace
1 pinch of ground juniper berry
2 shallots
bunch of finely chopped chives
A handful of parsley - flat or curly - chopped medium coarse
1 tsp of freshly grated horseradish
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
2 good tbs of crème fraîche
lemon
good bread and butter to serve

The first job is to cook the crab. Fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Set a large bowl of really cold water next to it. It's probably most humane in the long run just to pop them into the boiling water.

Once you've done that, return to the boil and cook for 7-9 minutes, depending on the size. Remove from the pan and plunge into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Once cooled remove from the water and allow to drain.

In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter with the herbs. Set aside and when it is cool, remove the mace and the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, pick the white meat out of the crab with a skewer. Pull the legs off, remove the body from the head and scoop out the brown meat. Strain to remove any excess liquid and put in a bowl in the fridge. Discard any of the strange frondy gills.

Crack the leg segments and pull out the meat and put this in a bowl. Systematically pick out the meat from the body, being gentle as it shards easily. Combine the meat, checking for shell, and place the white meat in the fridge.

Finely chop the shallot and herbs and place in a bowl with the white crab meat, the butter, the horseradish and the mustard. Very gently combine with most of the brown meat. Then gently fold in the crème fraîche.

Place in a bowl in the fridge for an hour or so to set, then serve with the toast, butter and wedges of lemon.

Crayfish, dill and potato salad

There are tons of crayfish in the waterways all over the country, and certainly in the Thames. You'll need a licence to catch them and they need to be purged before they're used, but local crayfish are starting to make their way onto the market. The reason there are so many around is that American signal crayfish were introduced to England and Wales in the late Seventies and early Eighties and, having no natural predators, they've thrived - to the detriment of indigenous species. It's the grey squirrel syndrome again.

Serves 4

28 small or 16 large live crayfish
3 large potatoes
2 tbs dill, washed, picked and chopped
A few wisps of dill, left whole
1 whole egg
1 cup flavourless vegetable oil
2 tbs crème fraîche
1 scant tsp of wholegrain mustard
2 tbs cider vinegar
a few pinches of cayenne pepper
sea salt and pepper

In batches of about 10, place the crayfish in a large pan of salted, boiling water. Return to the boil and cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size.

When they're a lovely, bright pink, dunk them in cold water to stop them cooking, remove them once they're cool and extract the soft sweet tails from the shells. If you roast the shells for a few minutes in a hot oven you can make amazing butter with them or use them for stock.

Peel and dice the potatoes into centimetre cubes and put in a pan with cold salted water. Bring to the boil and then drain when just tender (this may be straight away so be ready). Leave to steam in the colander over the pan for a few minutes to dry them out.

While the potatoes are cooking make a mayonnaise by combining the vinegar, egg and mustard in the bowl of a food processor and then slowly adding the oil, drop by drop at first and then, as soon as it's started emulsifying, in a very small steady stream. You can also do this with a whisk if you prefer. Season well, and turn out into a bowl.

Stir in the chopped dill and toss with the potatoes and crayfish. Serve with a little lemon dressed salad of baby leaves or mixed herbs. The cayenne pepper and the reserved wisps of dill will go on top.

Shallow fried herring with oats and orange zest

Herring and the Thames Estuary are very good friends indeed. Call this versatile little fish a herring and you'd be simplifying the issue as it is also a kipper and a bloater. The abundance of herring in the area has historically been the linchpin of its economy. This makes a nice festive starter.

Serves 4

8 medium herring, cleaned and gutted
2 handfuls rolled porridge oats
1 orange
3 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
50g butter
sea salt and pepper

Mix a few handfuls of porridge oats with the finely grated zest of an orange. Season with salt and pepper and place in a shallow bowl or on a big plate.

Lightly beat the eggs and pour into a shallow bowl. Sieve the flour into another shallow bowl.

Just before serving, dredge the whole herring, in turn, in the flour, egg and oats. Using a big frying pan on a medium heat melt half the butter until frothing and then add the herring to the pan. Make sure you don't add too many to the pan at once, as they'll stick to each other and you'll have a disaster. When they're nice and crisp and golden on the bottom, turn them over and fry them on the other side. Don't overcook them, they don't need long. When they're done keep them warm on kitchen paper in a very, very low oven while you cook the others. You may need to wipe the pan between batches. As soon as the second batch (assuming your pan is big enough for 4 at a time) is ready, serve with a little lemon-dressed mustard leaf salad or some chicory and parsley.

Janssen's Temptation

While you can find sprats in the Thames, salted or pickled sprats are hard to come by in this country but may be available from a Scandinavian food store. If not, you can make them yourself by packing cleaned sprats in salt and putting them in the back of the fridge for a week or two. They are rather salty, so soaking them in water for a bit before taking the flesh off the bone is advisable, as is going easy on the seasoning for the dish as a whole.

Serves 6

1kg potatoes
2 onions
20 pickled or salted sprats
1 pint cream
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel, slice and matchstick the potatoes then layer in a buttered gratin dish with the sliced onions, the boned fillets and a sprinkling of pepper.

Pour the cream on top and bake in the oven until golden brown on top but still tender in the middle which should take about an hour. Serve with pork, chicken, white fish, lamb or just on its own, as a starter with a crisp, dressed, green salad. For such a simple dish it really is surprisingly delicious.

• Konstam at the Prince Albert, Acton Street, London WC1; 020 7833 5040; open for lunch Monday-Friday 12.30-3.00pm, Dinner: Monday-Saturday 6.30-10.30pm

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.