WanderSups: On the Christmas Eve menu? Lobster
In Hannah Gregory’s family, Christmas Eve calls for a fish supper and this year it’s lobster and crab ravioli with lobster bisque. “Don’t you try and tell me Christmas isn’t about one-up-manship on your nearest and dearest. This dish delivers that in spades. . .”
Yeah yeah, OK. I get it. This recipe doesn’t scream ‘Christmas’ in the same way as perhaps a fruitcake with sugar and spice and all things nice or a roast bird big enough to make the sturdiest of tables groan, but in our house it has always been tradition to eat fish on Christmas Eve.
From doing the research it transpires that this is in fact a Roman Catholic tradition and comes from the abstinence of meat and dairy on the eve of religious holidays. How this then came to be such a thing in our household, comprised of atheists, agnostics and non-practicing Jews, is quite the mystery.
Such a mystery in fact that whilst writing and researching this article I downed tools to call mother dearest (something usually reserved for an evening when it's acceptable to have a bottle of wine to hand) to find out where this tradition came from. Her response: “Oh, I don’t know. Delia does it I think.” I’m quite dumbfounded to be honest with you. I feel like this is the middle-age equivalent of finding out Father Christmas isn’t real.
For hours Mum and I would sit at the dining table, cookbooks and Good Housekeeping articles covering it, a bottle of champagne on the go, as is tradition when writing such detailed lists and menu ideas. The same question would be asked every year: “Right, what shall we do for the Christmas Eve fish supper?”
And despite the question being asked with such enthusiasm the answer was always the same: “Fish pie.” Or perhaps a salmon en croute if we were having a particularly fancy year. (Read: guests Mum wanted to impress were coming.)
Has the basis of such nostalgia all been a lie? Do I continue to eat fish on Christmas Eve? What else from my childhood do I need to research?! Are my parents even my parents?!
I guess we’ll chalk this one up to another of those ‘weird family Christmas traditions that aren’t actual traditions’. The same camp that houses my mum’s other bizarre custom of wrapping something up that I already own and putting it under the tree and then absolutely wetting herself when I open it, watching as my confusion turns to disappointment as I clock what’s going on. Every year.
Aaaaanyway. Back to the fish. I wanted a dish that had a little more elegance than the aforementioned pie or croute. Don’t get me wrong, those dishes will always hold a special place in my heart, but don’t you try and tell me Christmas isn’t about a one-up-manship on your nearest and dearest and this dish delivers that in spades.
So simple to put together yet so decadent, all of the elements can be made in advance either the day before or the day of. The pasta can be prepped and shaped way ahead of time meaning the only thing you need to do when it comes to serve is heat up the bisque and boil some water. You can even get the kids involved in some pasta rolling if you are that way inclined.
If the below still looks a bit much, use cooked lobster meat and buy some fish stock, then you can skip the hard work. The bisque can be made up to three months in advance and frozen. A real treat and a dish for a celebration.
If not buying into the fish-on-Christmas-Eve thing - let's face it, why would you? It’s not even a thing - then this works incredibly for a NYE sups. Paired with champagne it’s the height of luxury.
Lobster & Crab Ravioli with Lobster Bisque
Tipple of choice: Chardonnay all round
What you need:
For the pasta:
2.5 cups pasta flour
Pinch fine salt
1 tbsp cuttlefish ink
For the filling:
1 smallish lobster, tail and claw meat (If you are OK with killing a lobster, get a fresh one from your fishmonger - there is nothing better. However, if you are not the killing kind you can get two frozen lobster tails which work well here or in a pinch you could buy cooked meat and use a premade fish stock.)
100g white crab meat
Dash single cream
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
Fresh black pepper
For the bisque:
Lobster head and shell
Large knob butter
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2tbsp tomato puree
Dash double cream
250ml chardonnay (then pair the rest of the bottle with the meal)
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 bay leaf
Salt and peps
How you do it:
For the bisque:
If using a fresh lobster, pop him in the freezer for an hour to sedate the guy.
When ready to cook, bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
Throw in lobby and pop a lid on and cook for five minutes.
Remove the cooked lobster with tongs (keep the water) and leave to cool.
If using frozen lobster, defrost thoroughly and cook as above reducing the cook time by a minute. If using cooked lobster, ignore this step.
Once the lobster is cool enough to handle, twist the head from the body and set aside. Remove the claws and using a rolling pin or the back of a heavy knife crack the shell and pull out all the meat. Squeeze the tail till it cracks, peel the shell back and pull the meat out - add to the claw meat.
Refrigerate the meat until ready to use.
Melt half the butter in a saucepan until foaming, then throw in the lobster shells and head and bay leaf and add in the tomato puree.
Deglaze the pan with the wine then add enough of the lobster cooking water to cover all the shells by an inch. Leave to boil slowly for 45 minutes, topping up with the lobster water if needed.
Melt the remaining butter in another saucepan and saute the shallot and garlic until the shallot is translucent and the garlic is starting to colour.
Add the diced celery and carrot and saute till cooked through.
Deglaze with the brandy.
Sieve the lobster stock (the one with the shells in) into the pan with the sauteed veg, leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the cream to the bisque and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Season to taste. At this point you can freeze, chill down and reheat later or serve straight away.
For the pasta:
Dump the flour and salt onto a clean work surface. Use a bowl to press a well in the middle of the mound. Crack your eggs into the well, add in the ink and begin to slowly whisk the eggs with a fork, gradually bringing in more and more of the flour.
Continue to bring in the flour with the fork until the dough is too sticky and nearly all the egg and flour is incorporated and then begin to use your hands, bringing the dough together and kneading for five to 10 minutes.
You will know the dough is ready when it is smooth and if poked, gently bounces back.
Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
For the filling:
Chop the lobster meat and put it into a food processor along with the crab meat, cream, lemon juice, salt and peps. Blend till a paste forms.
Add in the chives and pulse till combined.
Taste for seasoning. If you would like a creamier filling, add more cream.
Bringing it together:
Remove the pasta dough from the fridge and, using a pasta machine, roll out to long lengths. I do this by dividing the dough into four and then working through the pasta roller settings from the widest to the narrowest. Passing the pasta through four times until the last setting which I do twice.
Lay your pasta lengths on a clean table or work surface.
On two of your lengths begin to spoon out the lobster mix. You want about a tablespoon of mixture space 1.5in apart.
Take a pastry brush and dip in water, paint the pasta edges and in between each dollop of mixture - this is going to act as your glue.
Take the remaining pasta and carefully lay it over the lobster dollops, you want to create a pasta sandwich with the mix sitting in between. Once in position, carefully use your hands to press around each pile of lobster mixture and press the pasta lengths together.
Take a 2in pastry cutter (which should fit perfectly over the lobster mounds) and cut out your ravioli.
Carefully peel back the pasta off cuts to reveal your perfectly round ravioli.
At this stage I like to pick each one up and further crimp the edges with my fingers to ensure no leakage. You could then pop them on a baking tray and cling film and leave in the fridge for a day or two until ready to cook.
If not already hot, heat the bisque until steaming.
Bring a pan of water to a gentle boil and carefully drop in the ravioli and cook for four minutes.
Ladle some bisque into the centre of a plate and gently smooth out, place the ravioli on the bisque and garnish with chopped chives, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and black peps.
Hannah reached the quarter finals of BBC MasterChef last year. She hosts WanderSups supper clubs serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com
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