Lobster a la Riseholme

Serves: 2


See method


  • 1 live lobster, preferably a hen
  • 4 shallots very finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp brandy
  • 2 tbsp marsala
  • 150 ml double cream (you may need a little more)
  • 1-2 tsp paprika
  • A few pinches cayenne pepper
  • A few handfuls of grated gruyere, plus a handful reserved for grilling
  • 2-3 tbsp passata
  • Oil and butter for frying
  • Salt and pepper


Warning: This introduction includes plot details.

This literary dish plays a key role in E F Benson’s delicious novel ‘Mapp and Lucia’, to which many have been introduced through a gloriously camp 1980’s channel 4 series starring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and the late great Nigel Hawthorne. ‘Mapp and Lucia’ is a very English novel set in the town of Tilling (based on Rye in Sussex), the book documents the epic social war fought between established queen of Tilling society Elizabeth Mapp, and newcomer and arch rival Emmeline Lucas (known to all as Lucia). Lucia strives, with the assistance of her devoted companion Georgie Pillson, to topple Mapp from her throne and assume control of Tilling social life by means of plot, manoeuvre and intrigue. The details of Mapp and Lucia™s various attacks and counter-offences become an integral part of daily life in Tilling, with gossip and speculation being exchanged over morning shopping (or Marketing) in the High Street. One of the most vicious bees in Mapp™s seething bonnet relates to a recipe of Lucia™s, famous in Tilling for its succulence and exquisite flavour; Lobster a la Riseholme (Riseholme being Lucia™s previous home, which is thought to be based on the town of beautiful Cotswold village of Broadway in Worcestershire). Lucia is extremely secretive about the recipe, and even her cook did not know how to complete the recipe as Lucia always added the finishing touches by her own hand, and as a result the recipe became extremely coveted, particularly by Mapp. The recipe is instrumental in the lead up to a climactic scene in the novel where Elizabeth sneaks into Lucia™s kitchen on a stormy Boxing Day, and copies the recipe from a book on the shelf, unfortunately Lucia returns and discovers Mapp. The storm outside has been so intense that the banks of the nearby river burst and Lucia’s kitchen (located in the marshes outside Tilling) begins filling with flood water. Mapp and Lucia have only one means of escape, and are carried out to sea by the flood water on board an up-turned kitchen table.

We are never given the recipe in the book, apart from its opening lines of œTake two hen lobsters¦ but we are told however that its sauce is pink in appearance. Some have suggested that the dish is vaguely based an Escoffier recipe for lobster with paprika. So I have created this recipe with these details in mind. I have called for the use of live lobster but I have made it with ready cooked lobster and it was still delicious.

Serves 2 as a starter, double the quantities for 4 people. Apologies for the vague quantities but I’m something of an instinctive cook and the quantities vary each time I make it, so do taste the sauce and alter quantities if necessary.

Place the lobster in the freezer before cooking to put it to sleep. Never put a live lobster straight into boiling water, because apart from ethical issues the shock of the water may cause them to

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