I mentioned the other week when I shared the recipe for Swedish cheesecake that I’d been asking friends in Denmark and Latvia about foods eaten for Midsummer’s Eve there. There were some tasty-sounding options and when I then saw fresh live langoustines at one of our local fishmarkets, I knew I needed to make one of the dishes commonly eaten in Denmark for Midsummer. These langoustines with herbed cream are so easy to make but incredibly tasty and make a delicious appetizer whether you’re celebrating Midsummer or not. Here I used fresh, live langoustines but don’t be put off, you can use pre-cooked and shelled langoustines and the herbed cream would go just as well with lobster or shrimp, as well as fish.
Midsummer in the North
When my husband and I first met we were living in London and both travelled a fair bit for work. While me trips tended to be only short and not much more than work, some of my husbands were conferences where it worked to be a tagalong partner. One of my first tagalong trips was to St Petersburg in Russia, where we also had a couple days in Helsinki on the way (you had to fly via somewhere so it made sense to make a bit more of a trip out of it).
The timing meant we were there over midsummer which was a great time to be there for a few reasons. In that part of the world, they actually celebrate midsummer, so we got to see the celebrations in Helsinki with bonfires on an island near the city. The other reason was midsummer means ‘white nights’ in that region ie it doesn’t really get dark, just twilight. These days that would be a nightmare as I’d have the kids and in turn me hardly sleeping and so permanently cranky. But in those days when we could enjoy it, it was great. It meant my husband could be in the conference all day and we could still do things after, like go on a sunset river trip in St Petersburg at 10pm.
The midsummer festival in Helsinki was fun to see, with traditional activities like log rolling and a ‘midsummer wedding’ (we never did work out whether it was real or just for show) as well as snack stalls in the woods. The evening culminated in a series of bonfires being lit on the water’s edge and in the small bay, with the wedding party lighting them from a boat. While I’ve forgotten what we ate at the festival – I think it was relatively simple hot dogs – I can certainly imagine these langoustines with herbed cream fitting in for a midsummer feast. In fact I had a langoustine or crayfish ‘party’ in Sweden even more years ago with my host family while visiting as a teenager.
What are langoustines?
Langoustines go by various names including Dublin Bay prawns, scampi and Norway lobster. They look similar to what may be more commonly found, in the US at least, crawfish (or crayfish to some) but crawfish are freshwater animals, as I understand, and a little different although they can be substituted here too (to be honest I’m not totally sure what I bought as the fishmonger didn’t have them marked and while I said ‘langoustine’ the Spanish word for crawfish is ‘langostino’ and I didn’t ask for definite which they were. Either way they were good!).
I have to admit to being a little bit uncertain about having them moving around in the bag before I put them in the boiling water to cook – and this from someone who has cooked live lobster – but it wasn’t really so bad, you can just tip them in the water straight from the bag. Or buy them ready cooked! Even easier, get them shelled as I’ll be honest, they are a little fiddly though it is kind of fun to shell them. Either way they are delicious, even if there is limited meat from the size of the animal.
The herbed cream is really easy to make and really tasty. As I say, it would go equally well with shrimp and fish, for example, but you could also have it with vegetables. These langoustines with herbed cream are so easy but they are tasty and make a great summer appetizer that’s just that bit different. You can serve on their own as a small appetizer, or larger if you give a good few in a portion, or serve with salad. They’ll be delicious either way.
A Scandinavian tradition that's simple and delicious (if a bit messy!)
- 24 langoustines (or more/less as required, simply adjust the amount of herbed cream or use for something else)
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp chives , finely chopped
- 1 tsp tarragon leaves , finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemon juice
If using fresh langoustines - bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a little salt, and add the langoustines. Cover and cook for around 8-10 minutes. Cook in batches if your pot is a bit smaller so there's enough room for them to fit. Once they are cooked, remove from the water and allow to cool slightly.
While the langoustines are cooling, finely chop the herbs and mixed with the creme fraiche and lemon juice. Use the herbed cream as a dip for the cooked, shelled langoustines.