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Starter: Lobster Vol Au Vents

Makes 15


1 live Cornish lobster, about 600g, placed in the freezer for 30 minutes before cooking

Cornish sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pastry cases:

500g plain flour, plus extra to dust

10g fine sea salt

500g ice-cold butter, cut into 1cm dice

250ml ice-cold water

Egg wash (1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk)

For the mayonnaise:

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Juice of ½ lemon

250ml light olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fennel herb

For the garnish:

1 lemon, peel and pith removed, segmented and cut into small pieces

Fennel herb (plus pollen, if available)


To make the rough puff pastry:

Put the flour, salt and butter into a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips, until the pieces are roughly half the size. Add the water and mix to a dough. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a neat rectangle, about 50 x 20cm. Fold the top third down, then the bottom third up over the top. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Give the dough a quarter-turn, then roll out and fold as before, twice more. Wrap the pastry and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out.

To shape and bake the vol au vent cases:

Preheat your oven to 220 °C/Fan 200 °C/Gas Mark 7. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. Using a 5.5cm fluted cutter, cut out 30 discs. Place 15 of the discs on the prepared baking sheet. Using a 3.5cm plain cutter, cut a hole in the middle of the other discs. Brush the pastry rounds on the baking sheet with egg wash and top with the other pastry discs. Bake for 12 minutes until crisp and golden. Carefully transfer the pastry cases to a wire rack to cool, then gently prise out the centres. Keep in an airtight container unless using straight away.

To cook the lobster:

Bring a large pan of water (big enough to hold the lobster) to the boil and add plenty of salt (the water really needs to be as salty as the sea to ensure that the flavour of the lobster isn’t lost during cooking). Lower the heat so the water is at a steady simmer. Take your lobster from the freezer and place it on a board. Insert the tip of a strong, sharp knife firmly into the cross on the back of the lobster’s head. (The lobster will be killed instantly, although it may continue to move a little; this is normal). Carefully pull the lobster tail away from the head and remove the claws. Add the claws to the simmering water and cook for 3 minutes, then add the tail to the pan and cook for another 3 minutes. Immediately remove all the lobster from the pan and leave until cool enough to handle.

To make the mayonnaise:

Whisk the egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice together in a bowl for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is all incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To prepare the lobster cocktail:

Using a sharp knife, cut the lobster tail in half lengthways and remove the dark intestinal thread that runs the length of the tail. Discard the shell. Crack the claws and extract the meat. Chop the claw and knuckle meat and place in a bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise and stir gently to bind the lobster. Mix in the chopped fennel herb and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep in the fridge, taking it out 30 minutes before serving.

To finish and serve:

Fill the vol au vent cases with the lobster cocktail and finish with a few pieces of lemon and snippets of fennel herb, with some pollen if you happen to have some. Serve immediately.

Extracted from Restaurant Nathan Outlaw by Nathan Outlaw (Bloomsbury Absolute, £40)


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