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For The Love Of Lobster

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Donald and Catriona Maclennan, Leverburgh Harbour, Isle of Harris.

Isle of Harris Gin is from the sea, infused with Sugar kelp seaweed and taking inspiration from the crisp, cold, clear waters that surround our island.

It also pairs wonderfully well with fresh seafood, so we'll be celebrating more of this sustainable Outer Hebridean ocean haul over the coming months.

This week we meet Donald Maclennan and his wife Catriona, who live in a lovely new house overlooking the harbour in Leverburgh and run Sound Of Harris Shellfish.

Donald is an island man who's very happy with his job.

Catriona is from Harris, and Donald is from Stornoway, and she jokes that Donald only came to Harris to steal the Hearach lobsters!

Donald's family have always had a close association with the sea, and from a very young age, he has set sail on everything from dinghies and kayaks to fishing boats and container ships.

But, fishing always has been his favourite form of getting afloat, and in 2006 he took the plunge and left a lucrative career in marine engineering to take up creel fishing as a full-time occupation.

Their fishing boat is named "Valhalla" and works in the Sound of Harris.

Donald is particularly passionate about catching lobster. Although available year-round, Donald only targets them from April to December and says they are most abundant during the summer and autumn months.

He tells us…

"Lobster is the most enjoyable shellfish to fish for, and nothing will beat hauling a fleet of creels that have landed on a lobster hot spot. They are incredibly long-lived, some say immortal, as they cast their shell every so often to grow. They're also fascinating creatures, and when you think you've cracked their habits and expect a bumper haul...they vanish!"

The fascinating life of lobsters, caught in creels around Harris shores...

He continues…

"I wouldn't say it's easy to catch a crab or lobster. A lot of hard-won knowledge and effort goes into making a consistent living from the sea. It's very much a trade that takes time to learn well. I know two fishermen, 87 and 91 years respectively, and they'll tell you they still learn new things most days."

Catriona is similarly smitten with shellfish and explains that fishing is not just a job. It's a way of life for the whole family. She explains…

"Life in this house revolves around the boat, every day is different, and plans change with the weather. There is very little time for days off, but we don't work Sundays and wouldn't change that for the world. It's a time to recharge, reset, and look forward to the week ahead."

Donald setting creels at sea with a smile on his face.

Catriona continues…

"Importantly to us, we can provide year-round, sustainable employment to three other local families. It's hard work, but it provides us all with a good income, and we are flexible in terms of everyone's needs for time off. Hopefully, this helps contribute to good job satisfaction and good quality of life."

Donald's favourite recipe is Lobster Thermidor, while Catriona's is Lobster rolls with diced celery like they serve in the pier-side cafes in Maine, USA. Of course, their youngest girl Ivy will chew on anything at her age, but it's their daughter Matilda's favourite barbecue dish that inspires the recipe below.

Our thanks to the Maclennan family for sharing their love of lobster with us, and if you want to discover more recipes and Isle of Harris Gin inspiration, please download your free Harris Cèilidh Book here.



Giomach: Lobster On An Open Fire by Donald & Catriona Maclennan 

Lobster, cooked, halved and picked, shell retained
Butter, softened
Chopped herbs of your choice, dill, parsley, chives, tarragon
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice

Light your fire, or heat up your barbecue, and wait until ashes are white hot. Make up your herb butter by mixing the butter, herbs and seasoning and lemon juice, you want the mix to be soft and spreadable. Place all the lobster meat back into the shell, the claws will go neatly in the head cavity, generously spread the herb butter over the meat making sure everything is well covered. Wrap the lobster halves in tinfoil and place over the heat and cook for 4 to 5 mins max. If using a BBQ then simply close the lid or use the foil method. Serve with a fresh crunchy salad.

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