Some fantastic memories

ALTO SAN CARLO: Serena and Steven at the Italian restaurant.

This week Celebrity Chef from Ready Steady Cook & Fellow Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala cooks us his dying dish!

WHEN life gives you lemons, order the Lobster!

There are many lobster quotes but that one is my favourite.

There are also many stories like…there are two things you never get at home. One is Lobster, but the other one I can not write as this is a family paper!

But it’s humorous because it’s true. How often do you come home and ask… what’s for dinner darling and hear that it is Lobster Thermidor!

I was interviewed on Talk Radio recently and they asked me what my last dying meal would be. Immediately I thought of Lobster Thermidor because it has so many fantastic memories for me including special birthdays like my 21st 30th and 50th as well as memorable sentimental occasions and family celebrations including Christmas.

Lobster Thermidor is without doubt one of the most decadent dishes you can order along with oysters, Champagne and caviar. Some people are resentful of eating Lobster because of the way it is cooked alive and I understand this, but I have a humane way of cooking them (explained in the recipe below) and as an animal lover this is important to me. 

One of the special times that I have eaten Lobster Thermidor is recently with my daughter Serena before she flew off to Australia. I took her to the Italian restaurant at the top of Selfridges called Alto San Carlo.

We sat outside on the roof terrace and had scallops and Champagne (they were out of oysters) and then we saw Lobster with garlic butter on the menu and so I asked if we could have Lobster Thermidor. 

“Lobster Thermidor” the waiter said “What is that?” 

Seriously this is one of the best Italian restaurants in the capital city and you don’t know what Lobster Thermidor is? No but the chef might do and off he went to speak with chef.

He came back a few minutes later and said that the chef also had not heard of it! “Where has your chef been?” I asked. Serena prodded me to shut up and so I got up and spoke to the chef in Spanish (as I don’t speak Italian) and I explained the concept of the dish, the origin and the recipe.

The recipe of Lobster Thermidor was created around 1880 by Auguste Escoffier, it’s a French recipe. In March 1896, a successful reprise of the play Thermidor which was very popular in France opened in a theatre in Paris.

Escoffier obviously had this in his mind and he named one of his favourite dishes, the Lobster, Thermidor. So a London restaurant that hasn’t heard of Escoffier or Thermidor, how is this possible?

Anyway we finally got our Lobster Thermidor and it was yummy albeit it didn’t have the mustard in the sauce which is essential.

We sat and made some memories and got slowly tipsy on Champagne. “Serena when do you go to Australia?” I asked and she replied “In a few weeks dad.”

“Thank heavens its not a few months cos I’m running out of money! “

Lobster Thermidor

Note: You can use English mustard for this recipe which is equally delicious and a lighter sauce can be made using crème fraiche instead of the béchamel. However here is the traditional and tastier version of the recipe:  

Ingredients for 4

2 freshly cooked Lobsters each weighing approx. 600-700g

4 heaped tablespoons of grated Gruyere cheese

4 tablespoons of fresh thick cream

300 ml of béchamel sauce (white sauce thickened with flour)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

Juice of 2 lemons

Maldon salt and white pepper

Method for the sauce

To make the béchamel use a basic recipe from the internet.

Spoon the mustard into the warm béchamel sauce and add the cream and mix with a wooden spoon or whisk until smooth. Now add two tablespoons of the gruyere cheese and stir in and add the juice of one lemon, taste and season.

Method for Lobster

If you are cooking your own lobster it is important to put the Lobsters to sleep before cooking them by putting them in the freezer for about two hours.

Cook them one at a time to maintain the heat of the water. Put some lemon pieces and salt in the water and when it’s boiling rapidly drop in the first Lobster.

When the water comes back to the boil leave for two minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and immediately refresh (shock) in ice cold water.

Now that you have your cooked lobsters cut them in halves, remove the claws and remove the meat from the claws. 

Using a strong pair of kitchen scissors, snip along the bottom shells, and then use a large knife to cut the tails into two halves. Remove the lobster body flesh and place back into the shells, the other way around.

Remove the green substance from the head of the lobster so that you have a clean cavity to fill.

Place any of the bits of the cooked lobster leg and the claws from the shell into the head cavity of the lobster.

Now spoon over the sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere cheese and squeeze over the remaining lemon.

Bake in a pre heated oven 200c for at least five minutes until nice and golden brown. You can always add a little more cheese at the end and grill or blow torch to evenly colour if it needs it.

Serve with fresh asparagus lightly cooked and some hand cut fries.

Follow Steven on Instagram: saunderschef

Email any questions: [email protected]

The Little Geranium, Winner of Best Contemporary International Restaurant 2019-Costa Del Sol


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Steven Saunders

Steven Saunders FMCGB - The Little Geranium - La Cala de Mijas & Marbella


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