This week Celebrity & Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala celebrates his birthday and cooks one of his favourite dishes… Lobster Thermidor!
This week was my birthday (June 8) and I am still celebrating, but nervous of a big number next year! As a boy I recall my parents bought me a toy machine gun for my birthday, I was about 8 years old. It was what I had always wanted. It was circa 1969 and Harold Wilson was the UK Prime Minister. My father disliked him (Dad was a government councillor) and blamed him for everything that was going wrong in the UK. It was quite stressful because every day he would rant on about it and us boys (I have two brothers) literally didn’t know what to say, but one day I spoke up and said, “buy me a machine gun!” Dad replied, “what?” and I remember that I tried to explain that Mr Wilson wouldn’t know the difference if it was a toy gun, but the important thing was to scare him away!
So, a week or so later it was my birthday and I got a machine gun, complete with plastic bullets and a realistic sound! I wrote to Downing Street from a page from my school book, asking to meet Mr Wilson, but I never got a reply. Harold Wilson wasn’t a bad man, but his socialist policies were making the middle classes poor so that we had two classes, very rich and very poor. Dad would say, that is how socialism works. It makes the middle classes poor, deleting their existence and soon the governments have to look after more poor people and then they run out of money, so enforce more taxes on everyone. Meanwhile the very rich are always rich and that includes the governments. Doesn’t that sound familiar Snr.Sanchez!?
In 1995 John Major (who was prime minister at the time) came for dinner at my Pink Geranium restaurant near Cambridge to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. John Major lives in Huntingdon so it was closeby. As he was leaving, he told me that Harold Wilson had just died, it was May 24. I felt sad as it was an end of an era and my thoughts went to his family but also to my father and so I called him from the restaurant to tell him.
“Steven, I am sad”, he said, “because you know… they are all as bad as each other!”
Winding forwards 25 years, we have seen governments across the world, destroying our hospitality industry, not with intent, but because they do not understand the importance of hospitality, now we all have to reinvent ourselves to be able to survive. We are opening on July 1 with an all-new tasting menu and tapas concept. Basically, it gives our clients more options on a sort of sliding scale basis. So pre-COVID 19, we had tasting menus starting at €75 upwards and now we will have more tasting menu options at different prices starting from €35 (and no service charge!). I believe (and hope) that this is the way forwards.
Everyone should have the chance to eat at The Little Geranium and enjoy a tasting menu and so in effect, we will be reaching more people and that is really what hospitality is all about, feeding the world, being versatile, understanding and hospitable! I can’t wait to see all our friends and regulars on July 1. Michele is taking bookings now, so contact her by email at Michele@thelittlegeranium.com or go to our website http://www.thelittlegeranium.com to book.
But in the meantime, I am busy because I have a birthday to celebrate!
Fresh Lobster Thermidor… My favourite dish! Here is my traditional version of the classic recipe:
Ingredients for four
2 large freshly cooked Lobsters each weighing approx. 800g-1 kilo (or live National Spanish lobsters even better)
6 heaped tablespoons of grated gruyere cheese
3 tablespoons of fresh thick double cream
300ml of béchamel sauce (white sauce thickened with a little flour)
1 tablespoon of English mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Maldon salt and white pepper
Method for the Thermidor sauce
To make the béchamel, use a basic recipe from the internet to get 300ml.
Spoon the mustard into the warm béchamel sauce and add the cream and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Now add two tablespoons of the gruyere cheese, stir in and add the juice of one lemon, taste and season.
Method for Lobster
If you are cooking your own lobster live, it is important to put the lobsters to sleep before cooking them by putting them in the freezer for about two hours.
Cook them one at a time to maintain the heat of the water.
Put some lemon pieces and salt in the water and when it’s boiling, rapidly drop in the first lobster.
When the water comes back to the boil, leave for three minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and immediately refresh (shock) in ice-cold water.
Now that you have your cooked the lobsters, cut them in halves, remove the claws and remove the meat from the claws.
Using a strong pair of kitchen scissors, snip along the bottom shells and then use a large knife to cut the tails into two halves.
Remove the lobster body flesh and place back into the shells.
Wash away the green substance from the head of the lobster so that you have a clean cavity to fill.
Place any of the bits of the cooked lobster leg and the claws from the shell into the head cavity of the lobster.
Now spoon over the warm Thermidor sauce, sprinkle with the remaining gruyere cheese and bake (or grill) in a pre-heated oven at 200ºC for at least five minutes until nice and golden brown.
Season with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Serve with some crispy fries!