Lobsters and the first two mackerel

We have had many lunches in Hackett’s over the years and the food has always been good but now it seems to have got even better.

My eye was first caught by the place because the blackboard sign hanging by the door included on the menu of sandwiches a Gubbeen Bacon BLT. Then the kids were too young and wanted to be sat outside for lunch, in the sun with a plate of fish and chips from the French place. So I had to wait a few years before I was able to gain entrance. Invariably when I go there for lunch I will have the Gubbeen Bacon BLT or whatever new version of it they are making. However yesterday I decided on a change and had an open topped crab sandwich with garlic mayonnaise.

It came as described. A thick slice of brown soda bread smeared with an equally thick dollop of the mayonnaise on which was piled great chunks of white crab meat. There was some salad but that was a side show to the main event. We also had garlic bread. This was proper garlic bread, a hunk of white bread heavy with butter and flecked with crushed garlic. It all went down very well with a couple of pints of the IPA they had on tap.

Whilst we were eating nine lobsters were delivered by Tommy Arundel to the Cottage and were left to doze in the salad tray of the old fridge in the garage.

Back home we went out fishing. Having thought that the closest we were going to get get to a freshly caught mackerel would be the stains left over from last year on my pink shirt we caught two of them in a 45 minute drift along the back of Owen Island. We ate them later. Fried for a few minutes and on small pieces of toast.

I decided to do something different to them this year. Our large pan wasn’t big enough to cook them all at the same time and if I did them in batches then the fist lot would be cold by the time I finished them all. Kristen had told me that in The Good Things Café they split them in half before roasting them in a very hot oven. The oven in the Cottage is neither big enough nor hot enough for that but I figured there was just about enough room for 9 split lobsters on top of the BBQ.

The hard part was splitting them in half. They are alive at this point and to kill them I took a heavy sharp knife and put the blade against the cross that is marked at the back of their head. It was then a question of driving the knife down hard and then cutting through the shell until the lobster was split in half. This should kill them instantly and many fish cooks will say it is quicker and more humane than putting them in boiling water. It was still dirty hard work.

A bit like a mackerel that continues to twitch even after it has been tapped on the back of the head there was still some movement in the lobsters even after they had been cut in half. I felt that I still had to be careful of their claws as I cut off the elastic bands that kept them out of harms way.

Once they were all split in half I smeared them with olive oil and then laid them across the rack on top of the BBQ. They just fitted in. I put the lid on and left them for fifteen minutes and hoped for the best.

After that fifteen minutes I took off the lid to see how they were doing. Pleasingly they had started to cook – the deep dark blue of their shells turning to red. There was a good heat coming from the coals driven by the breeze coming in off the sea. Before putting the lid back on I poured some melted butter and garlic over them and left them for another fifteen minutes. By then they were done. To finish them off I sprinkled some fronds of fennel over them and then flamed them with the dregs from a bottle of Pernod that was lurking in one of the cupboards in the Cottage.

The lobsters were then hoisted onto a large dish. More melted butter with garlic, salt and pepper was poured over them and they were then taken to the small crowd around the fire on the beach. We ate them huddled around the fire. It had been cool on the beach. The same breeze that had helped stoke the BBQ had had a cold edge to it. But as we ate the breeze lightened.

There were clouds in the sky but they were thin and we could make out behind them the glow of a full moon as it rose up above Mount Gabrial.

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