You know how there are some activities that just encapsulate a season for you? On top of the obvious things like swimming, eating stone fruit, suffering mosquitos, celebrating Christmas and Australia Day, and generally trying to stay cool, something that jumps out and screams “Summer!!” for me is crabbing. Every year that I have been with my husband, we somehow managed to score a free night amongst the madness that is our holiday season – with birthdays it extends from the start of November til the start of February – to spend a night crabbing with his sister. It’s something I remember doing as a kid, too. We used to go down to our friend’s house in Mandurah, the dad’s would head out at dusk and crab all night, then we’d wake up to a massive pot of crabs cooking away as the sun rose. We have always done it more glamorously, wearing waders rather than old Dunlop vollies and bathers, so we can strip and drive off relatively clean and dry. But with torch nestled in our armpits, and scoop net in hand, we scour the bay for blue swimmer crabs. Turning our nose up at the females and little ones, going blind and delirious as the night goes on and you can’t see through the water anymore. And coming home to cook our catch at 3 in the morning. Back aching and completely exhausted from trudging through knee-deep water with a squelchy river bed; but excited to have done something a bit different on a balmy summer’s night. Most years we aren’t terribly successful, getting only a handful. This year, we ended up almost at our quota. So on top of eating a few claws fresh out of the pot, still warm, dipped in passionfruit vinegar, I got to be a bit experimental with the crab flesh.
We don’t tend to eat a lot of seafood, because it’s fairly expensive, but I am a big fan in almost all of it’s forms. Often, unless we catch it, we don’t eat it! Being a fairly delicate and sweet flavoured flesh, I thought simple and clean flavours was best for making a crab pasta. I didn’t want it to be lost in a heavy sauce. My husband, as well as re-acquainting me with crabbing, also introduced me to using tequila in cooking. One of his favourite things to do is pour a capful (maybe 5-10mL) of his favourite tequila over a big juicy steak. As it hits the steak and warms up, the aroma is incredible. Seriously, try it. I used a reposado for this dish, but ordinarily I stick to anejo’s or a Mezcal, as that is what we usually drink.
The crabs we boil in a large pot of water with 2 heaped tsps of hot English mustard and a good few glugs of white vinegar.
Crab and Chilli Pasta
2 BIG cloves garlic
2 sweet paprika, diced
1 tub grape tomatoes
3 yellow squash, diced
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
2 handfuls of cooked crab meat
250g egg pasta
Parmesan, pepper and chilli flakes to serve
Bring plenty of salted water to the boil
Fry minced shallots, chilli and garlic in oil until translucent. Add lemon zest
Add sweet paprika, squash and tomatoes, cook until softened a tad
Cook pasta as per instructions
Smoosh tomatoes against side of the pan, add tequila, lemon juice and crab meat, stir until crab meat heated through
Add noodles, and a splash of olive oil, stir to coat and combine
Add fresh herbs
Serve with freshly grated cheese, pepper and chilli flakes.
Being an Australian Summer, I also recommend drinking a nice Semillon Sauvignon Blanc to go with it.