J. Sheekey's Lobster Salad
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
"Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ... or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. ... Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark."
Gérard de Nerval (1851)
As much as this is a lobster dish I would happily serve even when lobster prices are significantly higher than they are in summer, when testing if not developing a recipe for lobster it's a little easier on the pocket to do so when lobsters are at their cheapest which, of course, is in summer.
With no great surprise, however, this recipe from "J. Sheekey Fish", the book of the eponymous restaurant, needed no development at all, so perfect is it as written. It's just such a beautifully-appointed combination of flavours that work so well together.
One thing that can't go without saying is how expertly picked the lobster meat in the tubs from Dorset Fish is. The chunks are kept very much in their natural form and can therefore be used as is or cut to the desired shapes and sizes to suit the dish they are destined for. And with recipes like this - assemblies really - the quality of the constituent components is from where the real success emanates.
Given how easy this is to make, and how elegant the result, this is one stunning starter plate!
The better the quality of the component parts used in this recipe the more it is one that becomes "greater than the sum of its parts". So do aim for the freshest possible lobster as well as good quality watercress and rocket (both can be quite lacking in pepperiness and in fact rather "soapy" of flavour if of lesser quality). A just-ripe avocado is what it is perfect here, and home-made mayonnaise (see, for example, "Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)" for a recipe) is just the thing.
The lemon dressing recipe makes double the quantity but dressings tend to be more successful if made in slightly larger quantities, especially if an emulsified result is aimed for. However, any remainder will dress any salad quite handsomely but may require a pinch or two of caster sugar to counteract its sharpness (which is achieved in this dish by the spiced cocktail dressing).
Despite its elegance, this recipe really is very simple to make and, even more importantly, simple to make relatively quickly. That's because it's a combination of three simple components, two of which (the sauces) can be made a day or two ahead. However, do make sure all components, especially the lobster, avocado and spiced cocktail sauce, have been taken out of the fridge before assembling this dish, for just long enough to lose the chill.
J. Sheekey's Lobster Salad
Ingredients (Serves 2)
150g picked lobster meat (or the meat from a 650-700g cooked lobster)
½ fennel bulb, outer parts discarded
½ ripe avocado
Handful of watercress, leaves and tender stalks only
Handful of rocket leaves
1 tbsp chopped chives
½ tbsp chopped dill leaves
For the spiced cocktail dressing:
2 tbsp Marie Rose sauce (see Notes)
1 tsp finely chopped mild red chilli (seeds removed), or quantity to taste
For the lemon dressing (makes double the quantity required):
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp virgin rapeseed oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, make the lemon dressing. Whisk together the vinegar, the two oils and the lemon juice. Once combined season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. A simple way to make this is to shake it in a small, tightly-sealed jar. Keep aside if using imminently, or it will keep in the fridge for several days.
Next make the spiced cocktail dressing. Make the Marie Rose sauce as given in the Notes and stir in the chopped red chilli according to taste. Again, keep this to one side if to be used imminently but otherwise keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
For the salad start by finely slicing or shaving the fennel and put this in a mixing bowl. Peel and and finely slice the avocado lengthways and add to the bowl. Pour over 1½ tbsp of the lemon dressing and gently mix. Then add the watercress and rocket leaves and give another gentle mix.
Spread half of the spiced cocktail dressing on each of two serving plates. Arrange the lobster meat and the salad decoratively on top making sure that all the ingredients are given equal visibility. Finish with the chopped herbs and another 1-1½ tbsp of the lemon dressing, and serve.
Marie Rose sauce: To 70ml mayonnaise (ideally home-made with some olive oil content - for a recipe see, for example, "Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)") add 30g tomato ketchup, mix well then season to taste with a dash each of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of Cognac. Finally, stir in a teaspoon or two of chopped dill leaves. The end quantity will be about 100ml and can be kept, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days until needed.
"J. Sheekey Fish", Allan Jenkins, Tim Hughes & Howard Sooley (2012), pp. 52: https://www.amazon.co.uk/J-Sheekey-FISH-Allan-Jenkins/dp/1848093802