by Kim Millon
Devon May 23, 2005 To my way of thinking, crab is even finer,
infinitely sweeter than lobster. And our local Devon crab, landed at
Exmouth and boiled straight away on the quay, is the best there is.
Exmouth Fisheries is a small family run concern with its own fleet of
dayboats that land shellfish daily. They are specialists in cooking
and in hand picking crabmeat. Much of it gets sent up country to London
as well as to restaurants all over the South West. We try and do our
bit for the local economy and eat it as often and as regularly as we
can. It’s never ridiculously expensive either: whole boiled crabs
go for just a couple of pounds (depending on size) while a luxurious
pound of pure hand-picked crab meat sets us back around seven quid.
direct to the source is what it’s all about. I like nothing more
than to give the Fisheries a ring (01395 272903), then hop on my bike
and cycle down from Topsham to the Exmouth seafront to purchase up a
couple of beauts, fresh out of the boiler and still piping hot. Picking
a crab to extract all the precious meat is a fiddly and time consuming
task so more often than not, I’ll choose instead to buy the crab
meat already picked. This may seem lazy, I know, but I justify my sloth
in the knowledge that the crabs have only been boiled and picked that
very morning, and so are near enough dammit as fresh as it’s ever
possible to get.
crab this fresh, you really need do very little. You can of course simply
crack the claws with a hammer and present the whole crabs on a plate.
Indeed the pleasure of such a simple meal is the fact that it takes
so ridiculously long to prise out the tiniest, most stubborn morsels
from knuckles, legs and other crevices, nooks and crannies. Indeed,
the sweetness of the meat, it sometimes seems, is in direct proportion
to the efforts required to prise it out. All you need to add is a finger
bowl and copious quantities of dry white wine. To me, this is really
what simple, leisurely, relaxed summer dining is all about.
we may choose instead to prepare crab Chinese style: cut the crab, still
in the shell, into pieces and stir fry with black beans, ginger, spring
onions and soy sauce. Or if we want to be fancy, we’ll layer up
a ‘tian’ of crab, with tomato and avocado and plate it with
some lettuce and a drizzle of basil oil. I love crab cakes, not mixed
with mashed potato, but simply Korean style, with chopped spring onions,
garlic and ginger, a little flour and beaten egg, to fry on the griddle,
pajon style. Sometimes I just mix the crab meat with lime juice, a spoon
or two of crème fraîche and some fresh, finely
chopped dill. Nada más. We eat it as it is, or pile
it into soft rolls. Absolutely sensational!
all time favourite, however, is linguine with crab, chilli and lemon
sauce. What I do is simply this: first gently stew some sliced garlic
and a crumbled dried chilli or two in extra-virgin olive oil, then add
a glass or two of white wine. Bubble down a bit, then stir in the brown
crab meat and the juice of a lemon, and mix to make a creamy emulsion.
Cook the linguine until only just al dente, then drain and add to the
crab, chilli and lemon sauce. Toss well, then serve immediately, topping
each portion of pasta with a spoon or two of white crab meat and a sprinkle
of chopped flat leaf parsley.
crab may be fished all year round, winter gales often keeps the boats
in shore. In any case, crab is most definitely a seasonal treat best
at this time of year. Crab is also cheapest during summer, so make the
most of this delicacy from the sea while it lasts.