Fresh picked crab is an absolute luxury. Picking the crab meat out of its shell is both time consuming and finicky work so it’s a real labour of love.
I am extremely fortunate because it’s a labour of love my dad willingly performs for me every time he catches and cooks crabs.
I know, I know – he’s a really good man.
One of the best ways to use fresh picked crab is in a crab dip. I’m not talking about one of those ghastly fluoro coloured monstrosities you find lurking in your supermarket chiller cabinet. I’m talking about real ingredients. Simple flavours. Pure indulgence.
Our great family friend, Auntie Ruta, made something similar to this one year for Christmas Day lunch and my Dad happily filched the recipe from her. My version below is different again – I’m not keen on seafood sauce, which is used in both their recipes, so I’ve kept this very simple, very basic.
Big thanks to my dad who picked the crab meat for me (again). I roped him in to help as I believe in going straight to the expert and he is certainly an expert crab catcher, picker and eater. (You can read about how he caught the crabs off Semaphore jetty here.)
Eating this makes me feel supremely happy.
2-3 fresh crabs
Juice of half a lemon
1 block cream cheese, softened, or 1 tub spreadable cream cheese (200gms)
Freshly ground black pepper
Put your fresh crabs in a pot. If they are not dead you should kill them humanely. This suggested method is from the RSPCA website:
“Crabs have two main nerve centres. One is located at the front of the animal under a shallow depression and the second lies towards the rear of the animal and may have a small hole positioned over it. The recommended method is to lift the abdominal flap (tail flap) and insert a knife all the way through the hind nerve centre, followed by a repeat of the process on the front nerve centre via the shallow depression at the front of the body.”
Alternatively, you could put them in the fridge for half an hour and then the freezer for one hour so they go to ‘sleep.’ Crustaceans are cold blooded so when their temperature is reduced they become insensible.
Place crabs in a large cooking pot with no water. Put the lid on and bring to the boil. Cook for around 15-20 minutes on a medium heat until they have fully changed colour to a bright red.
Rinse the crabs immediately with cold water. This stops the cooking process.
Now if you haven’t already done so – change into old clothes. Picking crabs is messy work!
To pick the crab meat out, peel back the inner triangular flap using your finger. Pull back over the crab’s back and remove the whole top shell.
Tear body in half and remove gills and internal organs. Some people like eating the mustardy liver; some people don’t.
This crab is a female – you can see the yellow eggs. Some people love eating this.
Use your fingers and the crab craws to painstakingly remove every bit of crab meat from the shell.
You’ll end up with a small bowl of crab meat, which seems completely out of proportion to the effort that you’ve just expended. But keep going, it’ll be worth it, I promise.
Now grab your other ingredients. Squeeze the lemon and mash the avocados.
Find your best small crystal bowl to serve the dip and make equal layers of cream cheese and avocado, finishing with crab. Top with lemon juice and dribble over sweet chilli sauce. Finish with a grind of black pepper.
I have to confess I am deeply disappointed with how the dip actually turned out. Not the taste – the taste was magnificent – but the photos just don’t do the dip justice.
I couldn’t find the small round bowl that my dad used last time so had to make do with an oddly shaped vessel that was really impractical for a layered dip. Usually, we try to make the layers more or less equal but it was difficult with this shape and the cream cheese layer is disproportionately large. The vessel was also too small: I could only fit one avocado in instead of two. Moreover, the sundae glass shape of the vessel made the crab dip look like a funky seafood dessert.
I was also racing against the clock when I took these photos as the daylight was fading fast. Hence, the rather dull pics. I could pretend that I wanted them to look moody and atmospheric but then I’d be lying.
So I was feeling a little disappointed when I finally made it to my parent’s house with the dip in time for dinner. All that effort – and for something that looked like a seafood sundae!
But then I tasted the dip.
And I heaved a great sigh of perfect bliss.
I’d do it all over again, precisely the same way, if I could eat that exact same dip each time.