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Issue 10 - Treasures of the deep

Scotland Magazine Issue 10
September 2003


This article is 15 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Treasures of the deep


The trick is never to look it in the eye. It’s fine when the fishmonger lines it up with its mates on the slab to see which one is biggest and the odd tentacle waves at you anonymously. But when he – no, never call it he or she, always it – is relaxing alone on your kitchen table, looking very laid back (rubber bands permitting), that is when the trouble can really begin.

Provided you have no eye contact, however, the deed should be less painful for you. And hopefully as painless as possible for the lobster.

Now, before you start panicking about cruelty to lobsters, I should point out that even a small lobster (600 - 700 g / 1 - 11/2 lb) has lived for three to five years. Larger ones can live up to 10 years and still be good to eat.

There has even been the odd 40 or 50-year old found shambling about the deep rocky coves. There is surely no more free-range existence for a “cavey”, as they are sometimes called in Scotland, than living happy and free in the rocky coves or tiny caves some 50 metres under the sea. Their relatively long life still seems to me leagues better than that of a battery hen stuck in cage, laying eggs to order. At least there is dignity to the life of a lobster.

And so it is with dignity that they should be dispatched. It is recommended that lobsters are placed in the freezer for two hours, until their temperature is at -20°C, by which stage they will be rendered unconscious and insensible to pain. After its little sojourn in the freezer, it should be plunged directly into boiling water and boiled vigourously for 15 to 20 minutes.

You can also barbecue small to medium lobsters, by firstly par-boiling for seven minutes, then splitting in half and brushing with butter or oil and barbecuing shell-side down for five to six minutes, turning and cooking flesh-side down for a further three minutes. Boiled or barbecued, it is divine served with a simple mayonnaise, perhaps zapped with a little garlic, chopped lemongrass or dill. And if you do not have all the gear – lobster picks and claw-crackers – then do as all other paupers do and use thin skewers and hammers. The only part you need to discard is the stomach sac in the head (which looks rather like crumpled-up clingfilm) and also the black intestinal tract.

Langoustines can also be barbecued - and are easier than lobster as they do not need to be par-boiled, just slung on the barbie whole.

Langoustines – also known in Britain as Dublin Bay prawns, Norway lobsters or scampi – are second cousins to lobsters, from a different line of the same crustacean family.

Langoustines are either caught in creels or netted. And, whereas in the past up to 90 per cent of whole langoustines were sent off in vivier lorries to France and Spain to be truly appreciated, British consumers are slowly coming to enjoy their own incomparable local produce. Apart from barbecuing, langoustines are good boiled (for two to three minutes at a fierce boil) and served with mayonnaise or garlic butter – or roasted in a hot oven for five minutes.

Scallops are another of Scotland’s fine gifts from the sea. Wonderful simply seared in a hot pan, they can also be barbecued; above all, do not overcook or they will become rubbery. And do not, under any circumstances, approach them with a piping bag: in olden days scallops were poached for hours then returned to the shell and a circle of mashed potatoes piped around. Life is too short to pipe potatoes, and scallops too noble to be mistreated in this way.

Even if you are of the Phoebe persuasion (“No food with a face”), do try the sea’s most delicious offerings, be it grilled langoustines, seared scallops or boiled lobster.

Remember, they’ve lived a carefree life in the sea and you are ending their lives with dignity. If in doubt, however, avoid eye contact.

Recipes serve 4

You can order frozen Scottish langoustines and scallops from Aberdeenshire-based Donald Russell Direct on +44 (0)1467 629 666 or


3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 - 4 tbsp sunflower oil
12 plump scallops, trimmed
Large bag of lambs lettuce/rocket/mizuna

Make the vinaigrette by shaking together the vinegar, soy, lime juice, sesame oil and 2 tbsp sunflower oil in a screw-top jar. Check seasoning.

Pour 1 tbsp of sunflower oil into a heavybased frying pan and heat to very hot. Add the 6 scallops and sear for 2 - 3 minutes altogether, turning after 1 - 2 minutes. Remove, keep warm. Cook the remaining scallops.

Toss salad leaves in the vinaigrette, and top with scallops. Serve at once with good bread.


16 live langoustines
400g / 14oz linguine
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
500g / 1 lb 2 oz ripe, firm tomatoes, peeled,
diced, patted dry
1 - 2 tbsp basil leaves, torn

Blanch the langoustines by plunging into a large pan of boiling salted water, bring back to the boil then remove, tip into a colander and place under the cold tap to arrest cooking. Once cool, remove the shells and ‘de-vein’ by slitting the backs with the tip of a knife and remove the black intestinal tract: you now have a plump langoustine tail.

Cook the linguine. Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, cook for 1 minute then increase the heat and add the langoustines. Cook for 1 minute each side until just cooked, then remove. Tip the tomatoes into the pan, bubble away until thickened slightly (3 - 5 minutes), add salt, pepper and some basil to taste. Return the langoustines, heat gently for a minute.

Check seasoning, drain the pasta, tip the tomato and langoustine sauce all over. Toss and serve at once.


1 freshly-boiled lobster
1 large ripe mango, peeled
1 frisée lettuce, washed
A handful of mint leaves
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Remove head, claws and shell from the lobster then cut the body flesh into thick chunks. Crack the claws but leave whole. Cut the mango into similar size chunks.

Place the lettuce on a shallow serving dish, top with with lobster and mango. Whisk together the oil, vinegar and sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste, then drizzle over the dish. Finally, tear over the mint leaves and serve with plenty of bread to mop up.

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