This dish came about because we were defrosting the freezer. An unglamorous start I admit. A time-consuming and fiddly middle. But a glorious and magnificent ending.
I’d had the langoustines in the freezer, bought on a whim and not knowing what to do with them. Luckily the garden helped out. We’ve got potatoes and peas a-plenty at the moment, not to mention all the salad leaves. The charlotte potatoes have been amazing, as they were last year. The plot is tiny and yet has produced endless dinners of potato suppers. Last year we didn’t have to buy potatoes for well over two months, and the trick we found to storing them was to harvest all the plants at the same time (a couple of weeks after the flowers have died), and then dig a large hole and fill with potatoes and cover with about 1 ft of earth. The potatoes kept all over the summer and didn’t sprout or go bad at all. Molly obviously got stuck in and just loved getting covered in mud. She’s now eating potatoes more readily and I think she wants to because she knows she helped produce them.
As for the peas, they’ve been magnificent and luckily didn’t suffer from the same rust / blackfly that the broad beans suffered from (I had to harvest all these at once as the rust had spread to the pods – but the beans themselves were fine and delicious – just meant quite a few broad bean dinners). Molly has loved helping me pod them, but unfortunately still doesn’t like eating them. She’s so much faster this year than last, and actually now an asset in the kitchen.
So we have the potatoes, the peas, an abundance of leaf and of course the langoustine. This reminded me of an amazing dish Jamie and I turned our hands to a few years ago, which involved prawns. I remembered it fondly, and half remembered it being a bit of a faff. It’s from The Cookery Year by Gary Rhodes, a book, that apparently by his own admission was overly complicated and a step too far. The dishes in this book are inspiring though. Only thing you need to remember is that it’s wise to read the recipe through a few times first to get it right in your head, and also make sure you’re not on washing-up duty.
I didn’t follow the recipe all that strictly as I wanted to incorporate lemongrass, langoustine instead of prawns and some pared down vinegars and oils. Unfortunately my version is still a little on the complicated side, but well worth it for the final results.
Langoustine, Pea and Potato Salad – Serves 2
10 cooked langoustines
10 – 12 New potatoes
20 or so pea pods
Couple of handfuls of mixed salad leaves (I used lettuce, chard, rocket and baby fennel leaves)
For The Langoustine Dressing
100ml olive oil
Couple of strips of lemon peel, plus the juice of 1 lemon
1 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tspn soft brown sugar
For The Cream Dressing
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tspn soft brown sugar
4 tblsp crème fraîche combined with 1 tblsp whole milk
Bunch of chopped chives
To Make The Langoustine Dressing:
Shell the langoustines, but keeping the tails intact. Remove the black intestine as best you can. Rinse under cold water.
Heat a glug of the olive oil with the shells and a couple of the heads, lemon peel, lemongrass, peppercorns and bay. Cook very gently for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and sugar and fry for a couple of minutes. Next add the remaining olive oil and bring to a simmer, remove from heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Remove the bay and heads and blitz the dressing in a blender. Check for seasoning. Strain through a sieve and it’s ready to go.
To Make The Salad:
Boil the potatoes until just tender, and pod then boil the peas. This time of year peas can be eaten fresh straight from the pod, so only take a few minutes to cook. Put the peas and potatoes into a large salad bowl and keep warm.
To Make The Cream Dressing:
Whisk the vinegar, sugar and cream. Add seasoning and then the chives just before serving.
To Assemble The Dish:
Cook the langoustine by frying in butter for a couple of minutes. Next add blobs of the cream dressing, and then the salad leaves. Lastly the langoustine, and toss.
At the table drizzle the langoustine dressing to taste.