Christmas is just around the corner and there is something about having crustaceans on the Christmas menu that is a big part of the great Aussie Christmas.
Christmas Eve, I serve up a platter of crustaceans. Cooked prawns, bugs and crabs sprinkled with fresh herbs like dill, chervil, coriander. There is always lots of lemon wedges, wasabi mayonnaise, homemade cocktail sauce (my boys insist we have that sauce), served with a crunchy green salad and crusty bread.
The crabs I use are usually spanner crabs found in the northern NSW and Queensland waters. I find their meat sweater than the blue swimmer and mud crabs. It may be because they are caught between a mile and 15 mile off shore on sandy bottoms, so they have a more of a smorgasbord of food to choose from than their cousins in the mangroves. Although they only yield 25 per cent meat, they are cheaper than other Crabs and some chefs prefer their distinctive flavour.
Paul Porter has been catching spanners commercially since 1989. There wasn’t really a market for them domestically as most people either had no idea what they were or how to prepare and cook them. Thankfully that has changed and Paul sends most of his catch to Sydney Fish Market.
If you want to have a go at catching them Paul suggests going out when there is no swell and using mullet or pilchards as bait. Paul sends down his trap in the late afternoon and says an hour later he can haul up to 15-20 but you need to check what the quota is for recreational fishers. Good luck and let me know if you do catch them and how you cooked them.
So what does Paul do with his spanner crab? Besides eating them cooked from the shell he has shared with me his wife Rebecca’s recipe of Hot Crab Dip. Perfect for the the silly season. Enjoy!
BECCY’S FAMOUS HOT CRAB DIP
500 grams drained cooked crab meat
250 grams cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup thickened cream
4-6 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Water crackers to serve
Fresh dill to garnish
Grease an ovenproof dish (4cup capacity)
- Combine crab meat, cream cheese, mayonnaise, thickened cream, spring onions, mustard sauces and garlic salt in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, mix well. Spoon mixture into the prepared dish, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Cook, uncovered in a moderate oven, 160ºC, for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Stand dip for 10 minutes before serving with crackers. Garnish with fresh dill.