There was really no reason to be celebrating. It wasn’t a birthday or an anniversary. Neither of us had any triumphs to gloat over.
I haven’t mastered handstands at yoga yet. He’s still learning how clean clothes find their way from the belly of the machine back into the drawers.
Except the sun was out. We were together. We were healthy. And I’d been a moody witch- yet he’d still confessed to being fond of me.
So I hatched a plan. We would celebrate with quiet time on the couch and a plate full of langoustines. Hang the expense. We’d drink cheap pink wine and watch the colour change in the sky.
Langoustines are salmon pink, skinny lobsters. They’re like Australian kids from a beach 20 years ago, sunburned and scrawny from all the time spent cavorting about in the water.
The first time I ate langoustines like this was at St John Bread and Wine. We’d just arrived in London. Earlier on we’d wandered around Spitalfields markets, looking at prints and onesies for newborns that didn’t yet exist. The Hungry One made the mistake of asking if I was happy we were in London. I remained crustily silent. I wasn’t sold on the move just yet.
I was probably quieter than usual at lunch. Luckily there’s plenty to keep your hands busy when eating langoustines. A friend of ours who’s a chef taught us how to dismantle them from the other side of the table.
He’s well versed in how to get the best bits of meat from crustaceans. I’ve been told that to entertain him as a child his mum would sit him down with a crab. He’d then spend hours meticulously combing it for every piece of meat.
He taught us first to pinch the sides of the belly in on themselves, like you’re squeezing ribs into a corset. The casing should crack down the centre. Then you can peel the shell and the tail off. Whether you suck the contents out of the head is entirely up to you.
We dipped the flesh into aioli which was sweet. The textures were placid and calming. Gentle threads of meat and a lolling lick of fat from the aioli. It was a smooth end to a spiky morning.
This time we just felt it needed a little more texture. I’ve become keen on savoury crumbles recently. They add a bit of crunch to keep things interesting. So I thought about almonds and hazelnuts. The play in tune with fat and fish. And I thought about samphire.
It’s edible see grass. It’s got the same kind of bite as an al dente green bean and it has a burst of sea salt . I’ve always seen it down at my fishmongers and wanted to put it to good use.
The nuts were toasted and blitzed with the grass into a rough rubble.
And that was it. We boiled the langoustines for just two and a half minutes and plunged them into an ice bath. We ate them with aioli, rubbing the pale flesh into the sauce and then dipping both into the crumble for a bit of texture.
It was very good indeed.
We both agreed that when things are going so smoothly that grit comes from what you’ve put on your plate; then that’s something worth celebrating.
Samphire and nut crumble
Serves four as a garnish. It’s lovely with langoustines, but also delightful with aioli over grilled asparagus (and even nicer still as a side dish to pan fried sea bass).
1 small food processor.
1 tablespoon of almond flakes
1 tablespoon of hazelnuts
2 tablespoons of samphire
1 generous pinch of salt
Here’s how we roll
1. Toast the hazelnuts and the almonds in a non stick pan over a medium heat until they turn brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
2. Blend with the samphire stems. Season with salt.
3. Serve with aioli as a topping to grilled asparagus or a dipping sauce for shellfish.