On a quiet street in Fornells in Menorca is an unassuming restaurant, Es Cranc. Es Cranc has a large menu, but most come here for the Caldereta de Langosta, a popular lobster soup from Menorca made with the native blue spiny lobsters which Es Cranc is particularly well regarded for.
Caldereta gets its name from the pot that it is cooked in, a caldera. Traditionally this was a fishermans dish, cooked with the broken lobsters that they had caught. Now, it is a luxury and an indulgence, cooked at home for special occasions and at specialist restaurants like Es Cranc in Fornells.
Behind a side door next to Es Cranc is a path that meanders to a room of large water baths, and these are full of spiny lobster. Spinning and weaving, large and small, these lobsters are mostly destined for the caldereta, some will be served simply grilled on their own. This is where the fishermen deliver their catch, for Es Cranc that is 5 different day boats that go out up to 7 miles out to sea. .
Es Cranc was full on the Sunday that I went for lunch. Jovial large tables with extended families, all there for the caldereta. The soup has a base of tomato, onions and green pepper, and is light and fruity, with lovely lobster cooked just so inside, still sweet and tender. It is served on top of thin sun dried slices of bread, like crackers. A bib is provided – and you need it. We had some lovely local white wine on the side.
The langosta lobsters can only be fished between March and August, so pencil it in your diary for then. Alternatively, you can recreate it at home. One of my favourite food writers Claudia Roden has a lovely recipe for caldereta from her superb book The Food of Spain. She serves it with a picada of almonds, garlic and parsley. Here it is for your Sunday lunch pleasure. Lets let the sunshine in, even if it doesn’t want to be here!
Notes on the recipe: As above, this recipe is adapted from Claudia’s Caldereta de Langosta in The Food of Spain. Claudia includes monkfish and fennel which I have omitted (including extra lobster instead) so that it is closer to the one that I had. Buy your lobsters just before you need them and have your fishmonger kill and chop them for you into chunks just over an inch. The sun refuses to play frequently enough for us to sun dry the bread, and even though it is considered a cheat in Menorca to roast it, if they were here, they would have to too! :)
Recipe: Caldereta de Langosta
For the caldereta
3 x 700g raw live lobsters (as your butcher to prepare them as per the notes above)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper,cored, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
350g tomatoes (4 to 5),peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 litre fish stock
125ml brandy or cognac
salt and pepper
For the picada
12 blanched almonds
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
handful of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp brandy or cognac
One good baguette, sliced into narrow slices and toasted or roasted in a medium hot oven until crisp
Fry the onion and the pepper in the oil in a large pot (I used my shallow casserole which was the closest I had to a caldera) over a low heat until very soft. Add the tomatoes and sugar and cook until the sauce is reduced and jammy. Blend until well combined (in the pan with a hand blender or a food processor – whatever you have, you can mash coarsely if you have neither).
Meanwhile, for the picada: Fry the almonds and garlic in the oil in a small skillet over low heat for moments only, turning them once, until they are golden. Pound them to a paste with the parsley in a mortar, or blend them to a paste, and add the brandy.
Add the fish stock and brandy to the tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper. Add the lobster, and bring to the boil. Boil for five minutes and stir the picada into the lobster soup. When the lobster shells are bright red and the meat is firm the soup is done, this will take only a few more minutes at most. Take care not to overcook it, lobster is best when tender.
Serve immediately in bowls with the bread and savour your work. A crisp white wine or rosé perfect this. Aim for a Menorcan or Spanish one :)
I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca, who sponsored this project. As always, I’m free to write what I like and I do! Life is short etc. :)