A lot of really expensive food items are hard to justify in these lean times, especially since quite a few carry controversial baggage with them.

Lobsters are increasing in numbers as a direct result of overfishing of their main predator, cod. The cod would cruise around snapping up baby lobsters by the dozen, but now they are declining the lobster survival rate is hugely improved.

Lobsters are still expensive, but not to the extent they used to be when you compare them to the price of other fish. 

There are lobsters and lobsters, however. The two species I prefer are the native (Cornish) lobster – dark and slender – and the rounder, larger North American or Canadian lobster. Each is very good, though I reckon the native just tips the scales on both flavour and price.

Lobster soup

Serves 20

  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2 heads fennel
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 red chilli
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lobster shells (you have
    eaten the flesh already)
  • 1/2 bottle white wine
  • 1kg (21/4lb) shell-on prawns
    or langoustines
  • 1kg (21/4lb) small red mullet, whole,
    or other mixed white fish, whole
  • 4 tins really good Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tsp saffron strands
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Cognac to taste
  • Pernod to taste

For this treat we are going to use the lobsters’ shells, as well as some prawns and fish. While unutterably delicious, this is a by-product recipe and thus represents great value for money.

Start by heating a huge pot on the stove. Chop the vegetables and chilli and throw them in, together with the olive oil.

Sweat them off for 15 minutes.

While they are cooking, smash the lobster shells up with a hammer until they are as finely broken as possible. I suggest you put them under an unwanted tea towel to do this. (By the way, this is great for getting rid of pent-up aggression.) Add them to the pot with the white wine, prawns and fish, then the tomatoes and saffron.

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Once this is done, blitz the mixture in a food processor until it is all a mush. Now the really boring bit: find a fine sieve and pass the mush through it until you are left with a thin, gorgeous-smelling broth.

Throw away the mush that remains (or bait your crayfish traps with it).

Put the soup back on the stove and reduce the liquor by half. This will concentrate the flavour and improve
it no end.

When reduced, season with salt and pepper and add cognac and Pernod to taste. You should be left with about three litres of amazing soup.

Serve with warm toast and rouille.