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BISQUE OF CANADIAN LOBSTERLobsters only turn red when you cook them. Live lobsters are a dark colour, usually green or reddish brown, which camouflages them on the seabed. This is due to the pigments they absorb from plankton (carotenoids), which bind with the proteins in their shells. When you cook a lobster, these pigments are released so the lobster reverts to its characteristic bright red colour. The shells of lobsters and other crustaceans contain elements such as pigments, proteins and sugars that add flavour so don’t throw the shells away! Use them to make rich sauces and soups like this bisque but, watch out, the pigments dissolve more quickly in oil than in water. To ensure your soup is a luscious red colour, first fry the shells in a good splash of oil.

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 25 Minutes


  • 2 × 500–600-g/1 lb 2-oz–1 lb 5-oz live lobsters
  • 2 litres/3½ pints/8½ cups court bouillon (see here), or enough to
  • cover the lobsters, or salted water
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut into rings and green parts removed
  • 0.5 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 tbsp tomato purée (paste)
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz/⅔ cup Cognac
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup white wine
  • 1 litre/1¾ pints/4¼ cups fish stock (see here)
  • bouquet garni (sprigs of flat-leaf parsley and thyme with 1 bay leaf,
  • tied together with thin string)
  • 0.75 tsp ground piment d’Espelette
  • 3 tbsp double (heavy) cream
  • groundnut (peanut) oil
  • salt and pepper
How to Make It
  1. Put the lobsters in the freezer for 1 hour to render them unconscious. Remove from the freezer and leave for 15 minutes to come to room temperature. Bring the court bouillon or salted water to the boil in a large pan, add the lobsters and boil for 8 minutes. Drain and lightly rinse them under cold running water.
  2. Break off the tails and remove the meat. Crack the claws and dig out the meat with a lobster pick (see here). Set the meat aside. With a large knife, bash the shells of the lobster heads, short legs and body into rough pieces.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of groundnut (peanut) oil in a deep, heavy frying pan (skillet) over a high heat and fry the lobster shells for 5 minutes. Add the onion, leek and fennel and fry for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and tomato purée (paste) after 30 seconds and then sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Deglaze the pan with the Cognac, add the white wine and then pour in the stock. Add the bouquet garni and piment d’Espelette, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 30–40 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cut the lobster meat into rough chunks.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni from the pan and strain the bisque through a conical sieve (strainer). If you don’t have a conical sieve, use a potato masher to break up the lobster shells and then strain through an ordinary round sieve.
  6. Return the strained bisque to a clean saucepan and place over a high heat. Add the lobster meat and heat for 2 minutes. Lift out the meat, add the cream to the pan and stir over the heat for 2 minutes.
  7. Divide the lobster meat between serving plates and ladle the bisque over the top.

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