Quite a catch

THE Western Rock Lobster season is now well under way, with the first of these delicious crustaceans being served and included in menus across Perth from November 15.

The Western Rock Lobster, is one of the jewels of Western Australia, with the lobsters caught in our spectacular, unpolluted coastal waters regarded around the world as among the best in their class.

Before delving into the delicate flavours of this decapod crustacean, consumers must understand that, to ensure the long-term survival of the crayfish/lobster, there are rules that must be followed.

p This season’s crayfish or rock lobster season runs between November 15 and June 30 2002.

Until February 1, the legal minimum size for your catch is 77mm. After this date, it is reduced to 76mm.

p You are only able to remove the lobster in three ways –by hand, with the use of a noose snare or in a cray-pot. You are not allowed to use a pointed object to secure your catch.

p Each licensed person is entitled to set two cray pots to catch eight legal sized lobsters. However, even if there are a number of licence holders on your boat, the limit for a floating vessel is four pots and 16 lobsters.

p Licences are available from any fisheries office and post offices around the State for $25.

The fisheries department undertakes random beach, boat ramp and sea checks. Those who try to beat the system will be fined up to $5000 per person on board and $150 per undersized or excess lobster

You are unable this year to attract your lobster using hide bait.

The Western Rock Lobster takes between three and four years to reach the legal catch size and it will take them around 10 years until they reach full size.

Scientists, as clever as they are, don’t have a reliable way of determining a lobster’s age. One of the oldest lobsters confirmed was a 28-year old that was grown in a research aquarium.

When you head out to your favourite fishmonger to buy a few lobsters you will be rewarded if they are still alive or the monger can explain to you when they were frozen.

Most of the lobsters available in retail outlets should be fresh. It is difficult to judge how fresh the lobster you are buying is, however a good bet is to look at the tail.

The tail should bend easily and the flesh should be almost transparent. The eyes also will give you an indication and should be sparkling black, not dark brown, in colour.

During the past few weeks I have been asking some of the chefs around Perth to explain how they prepare lobster when cooking at home. Most agreed that the best way to cook up a feast is to keep it simple.

Brad Ford from Fraser’s restaurant told me that he “likes to simply cut the fresh cray in half, season with sea salt, white pepper and plenty of butter, sear on a hot flat grill, or fry pan and then bake in the oven until the lobsters shell changes colour. Keeping it simple allows you to notice the flavour of the delicate flesh”.

Brad recommends the Howard Park Riesling as the perfect complement to his lobster.

Over at the Hilton I caught up with Cheong Liew as he put the finishing touches to a few new dishes he is adding to the Globe Restaurant menu. Cheong agreed that less is best and, when he cooks for the family (I wouldn’t mind being invited), Cheong likes to bake the lobster whole in the oven, then season the flesh with salt and pepper and a generous serving of butter. This method keeps the flesh tender and succulent, and matches perfectly with a glass or two of Veuve Clicquot champagne.

A quick scoop of freshly caught flesh sautéed on the barbecue and washed down with an ice cold beer is how I intend to enjoy a few Western Australian jewels next weekend.

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