When it comes to food and drink, Western Australia has it all. Trust me, this part of Australia has been my home for the past five months – and I’ve dined well! I’ve traveled all over, learning how to make wine, brew beer and even sniff out truffles.
One of my favorite trips was to Rottnest Island, which is just 11 miles (18km) off the Western Australian coast, just a little north of Fremantle. My mission there? To catch, cook and eat Western Australian Rock Lobster.
My guide on this lobster trek was a Welshman-turned-Perth local named Kiren Mainwaring. Kiren is the chef and owner of two of the city’s hot restaurants (Co-op dining and Dear Friends). Kiren’s approach to food is a response to what’s fresh, local and in season.
He has a passion for the local seafood that can be found in the waters of Rottnest Island, which is just a 30-minute boat ride from Perth in the Indian Ocean. He took me out to catch some Rock Lobster at the start of what is known as the ‘White Crayfish Run’.
The ‘White Crayfish Run’ is when the lobsters (or crayfish as they’re called by the locals) molt their shells and become a much lighter color, almost a soft pink. They’re preparing to camouflage themselves as they march out across the sand to deeper ocean waters.
With the help of local fisherman and chef Aristos Papandroulakis, we went out by boat and pulled in a pot of fresh crayfish. Kiren showed me how to cook them up on a beach BBQ with a salad of grilled peaches, nectarines and samphire he had sourced from Perth.
I’ve manage to talk Kiren into sharing his recipe and you can watch him cook it up (and my attempts to catch a lobster pot) in the video above.
Western Rock Lobster with Stone Fruit and Samphire Salad
By Kiren Mainwaring
Using an ingredient like fresh rock lobster I like to keep the recipe simple. Putting it straight on the BBQ is a perfect for a casual summer meal. Making use of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients is key to this dish. Keeping in mind the heat of the day, I wanted to make something that complements the lobster but also keeps it fresh and healthy.
- 1 lobster (Crayfish) split and cleaned
- 1 nectarine
- 1 peach
- 10g of lemon verbena, finely chopped
- 25g of washed sweet potato leaves
- 10g of wild samphire
- 4 young grape shoots, roughly chopped
- 2g of fennel pollen
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Extra lemon
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black peppercorns
How to Cook Rock Lobster
Sprinkle a little sea salt onto the prepared lobster and put it face down onto the hot BBQ. You’ll get a nice sizzle as you do this. It won’t take long to cook so roughly slice your peach and nectarine into thick chunks. Put these on the BBQ face down too.
Now for the salad. In a medium bowl add the fennel pollen, breaking it up as you go. Then add roughly sliced purple and green beans, sliced vine shoots, and finely chopped lemon verbena. Break the raw samphire up with your hands and add it straight in. Some people like to cook their samphire, but I love the texture when it’s served raw. Lobster is normally served with a potato salad or some kind of starch, but I keep this dish nice and fresh so the final thing to add is some sweet potato leaves. They have a subtle potato flavour that complements the lobster.
Finally a little dressing; some extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and mix it up with your fingers.
You want to cook the lobster until it’s just opaque and seared on the top. Just past underdone. The nectarines and peaches should get a nice caramelized top. When they’re done turn them over carefully and squeeze some lemon over the tops.
Pull the meat from the lobster, it should come out in almost one piece. Then roughly chop and place on your dish. Top with the salad and finally the grilled stone fruit. It isn’t obligatory to eat it on the beach where you caught it, but I strongly recommend it.
About the Author: Rich Keam is originally from Portsmouth, UK. He was one of thousands of entrants to Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs in the World campaign. He arrived in Perth in August 2013 to take up his prize job as Taste Master of Western Australia. Eating and drinking his way around the state… Hard job right? You can follow Rich’s adventures on www.tastewesternaustralia.com on Twitter @richkeam or follow Kiren on Twitter @chefkiren