How to cook a lobster: ‘It needs nothing but itself and maybe a bit of seasoning’

“Our lobsters are much too superior to disguise with any fancy sauce,” wrote the great Monica Sheridan. She was right

"The first essential in buying good fish is to get to know a sociable fishmonger." Thus wrote the great Monica Sheridan in her 1963 book Monica's Kitchen. Sheridan knew well the importance of the person when purchasing food.

We have perhaps lost and even regained this attitude since she wrote these words. It’s something I constantly recommend to people in my cooking classes. Buy from people. Get to know them, whether they are a farmer, a butcher or a fishmonger. Food is always better when bought from someone who cares about its provenance.

“You must always buy from the same person … this way you will get to know what is the best buy from week to week,” Sheridan wrote. Sage advice indeed.

This week I’m on the lookout for a lobster. Perhaps it’s the cold air of January that makes me feel like indulging in this crustacean. Just as Sheridan was, I’m not one for “classic (and elaborate) sauces”. A good lobster needs nothing but itself. Well, maybe a little seasoning, but after that it’s only excess. “Our lobsters are much too superior to disguise with any fancy sauce,” Sheridan astutely observes.


How to cook a lobster

To my joy, Sheridan cooks her lobster in sea water and seaweed. I can think of no better contemporary manner to cook a lobster. But not everyone lives by the sea (as Sheridan did). A few herbs (tarragon, parsley, thyme) and a handful of sea salt is sufficient.

Bring the water to the boil and plunge the lobster into the water. If you want to stab your lobster in the head first, do so. It will die instantly. Cooking for five to seven minutes is plenty for a lobster weighing under a kilo. If not serving it immediately, plunge it into ice water. If using it there and then, split the tail in half with a chopping knife and crack the claws with the back of the knife.

My standard seasoning is a Kitty Colchester extra virgin rapeseed oil, Achill Island sea salt and our own seaweed vinegar. But as long as you balance the salt, fat and acid it doesn't matter what you use. Lime and Maldon sea salt is a nice option as well.