I’ve been on the hunt for crabs ever since we arrived in Australia as they are right at the top of my list of favourite sea foods. It all started with family fishing trips to the Swan River and Mandurah Estuary as a child. I have wonderful memories of a massive copper pot of freshly scooped Blue Manners boiling on a campfire – newspaper laid out on the foldout table with bread buttered and white pepper and vinegar at the ready for the gourmets amongst us. We’d stuff the warm crab meat sandwich to bursting and the buttery juices would run down my hands with each delightful bite – heaven.
All grown up and living on the other side of the world in London they were not so easy to catch – I’m no contender for the “Deadliest Catch” series that’s for sure. I resolved to them being caught and prepared for me, which tended to leave me somewhat disappointed. When I first met my partner and planned to move onboard a boat for a large part of the summer I straight away called home and asked mum if she would bring me over a couple of drop net pots on her next visit. Strange thing to ask for I guess, but she didn’t even blink. They arrived as priority in her luggage (what a great mum!) and I couldn’t wait to get crabbing again.
Sailing Brittany in northern France each summer and learning from the locals I would head ashore on the low tide to set my pots near rock and hope for a selection of small rock crabs. They never yielded much meat but really added that essential oomph to any stock or our staple seafood bouillabaisse. The divine brown and spider crabs which could be purchased cooked or live from the fishmongers were brought up from a depth that my simple pots could never reach and so became a regular treat for us when dining out.
Which is why I am so excited to have the larger crabs back on my catch list here in Eastern Australia. Whilst we are in northern climes with mangrove-fringed shores it is the mudcrab I’m after as they will not be around as we head south. My first beauty crawled into the pot I had thrown off the back of the boat just yesterday and the cooked version of him is starring in this blog header – gorgeous isn’t he? The hardest part is deciding how to cook them – an online search for recipes returns a huge list. Not only was he the first “muddie” I’d ever caught, it was the first caught crab in such a long time for me that he got the royal treatment. Half was consumed warm and unadorned and was eye-rollingly delicious. The other half was chilled overnight in the fridge and meat was extracted to be served tossed through spaghettini with olive oil, lemon juice and a few chilli flakes.
The same pot and bait caught a couple of blue swimmers today which are currently going zzzz in the freezer. Until I get used to the fact that they are here in my life again with abundance I will be treasuring these guys steamed naturally, buttering the bread in anticipation, a little vinegar and black pepper at the ready.
I can’t wait to try our luck at catching a few spanner crabs, or Moreton Bay bugs as we head south to explore the coast towards Sydney. Whatever we catch I’m very glad to say that crab is back on the menu!