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December 22, 2010

The Crayfish Waggle

The moment you spend a bit of time with something or someone, you inevitably start to form a bit of a bond with it/him/her.

I go to pick up 6 critters from 'the crayfish family' on the other side of town. Of course, today is the day I decide to drive my own car (and not Mrs X’s staff station wagon). Of course, today is the day that the crayfish lady decides to ask me for a lift down the road; with a bulging, holey packet that bleeds crayfish juice all over her lap, and trickles the pungent liquid down onto my freshly cleaned seats.

I drive home. I keep an eye on that white packet on the passenger seat floor. The packet waggles. I imagine it bursting open, red beasts escaping and crawling all over my car. We make it home in one piece. Shoo.
I get a large pot on the stove and pour some beer and rooibos tea in the bottom. I put my hands in a pair of heavy- duty yellow gloves (I’m rather allergic to crustaceans) and cringe while I open the packet. They are still waggling. One by one I grip them with the tongs, while their tails clap and their legs claw the air, and submerge them in the pot, shuddering.  I can’t bear to hold the lid down while they scratch the sides to death.

I call on the butler (we’ll call him ‘Niles’) to hold the lid down firmly. Niles obliges, laughing. Their little antennae are poking out of the pot. He chuckles and says that the crayfish are waving goodbye.

As a carnivore and meat lover, I’m all for acknowledging the animal you kill for consumption. I like to think I could look a lamb in the face. I like to think I’m a little less na├»ve than those who think chickens come cling- wrapped in polystyrene trays.

But I don’t really dig watching a crayfish’s eyes glazing over as he slips into a rooibos- induced coma.

I must mention at this point that the first time that I ever I touched crayfish my tongue started to itch and swell, filling my mouth. My hands blossomed a prickly pink rash that spread quickly and lasted for hours.

All six souls died for a good cause, however. A recipe for Lobster salad with warm-rooibos-gooseberry-and-wasabi- butter that I found in the Woolworths Taste Magazine has always intrigued me. I like the marriage of colours: Green, white, orange. It’s a subtle dish that doesn't try too hard. I made it as part of a kind of 'surf and turf' main course, alongside salt- crusted fillet with caramel fish sauce and a light lime- juice dressed raw coleslaw.

By the time I finished this dish; tasted the perfect butter sauce, and gave some thought to the delicate flavours, I was ready to slip a piece of my old travelling companion, my glossy eyed red shelled victim, into my mouth. It slipped down like silk.

Yes (if you are wondering), my tongue itches. One of my fingers is a little red where a claw punctured my glove, and I had to get Niles to dispose of the gleaming red corpses. But my guilt has certainly subsided. 
The crayfish waggle is actually nothing more that cute.

Crayfish salad with warm Rooibos-Gooseberry-and Wasabi butter sauce
Serves 5 as a starter, or as a main course alongside a hearty steak
Adapted from Woolworths Taste Magazine, October 2007 page 17

  • 6 legally sized, legally sourced fresh crayfish 
  • 60ml rooibos tea sticks, or 10 sachets best- quality rooibos, opened
  • 2 beers ( I'm an Amstel fan, but whatever floats your boat)
  • 2 avocados, ripe but firm, cut into 0.5cm lengths and sprinkled with
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 400g tenderstem broccoli
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil
  • 200g gooseberries
  • 10ml extra virgin olive oil
  • maldon salt
For the sauce: 
  • 130g butter, clarified is preferable
  • 30ml rooibos sticks or 5 top- qualitiy rooibags, opened
  • 5ml wasabi sauce, or 3 ml wasabi paste
  • 50ml balsamic reduction*
  • 15ml honey
  • salt
  1. Place a stock pot on the stove with a round trivet inside (I use one that used to be in an old microwave). Pour in the beers and tea sticks and bring to a boil, lid on.
  2. Knuckle down, get a hold of those critters with a pair of tongs and settle them onto that trivet. Shove the lid on, ignore the waving antennae and hold into down until silence ensues. Time about six minutes from the moment of silence, or wait until the bad boys are bright red. 
  3. In a basin, rip the heads off (grrrr) and slit the tail down the centre. Maneuver the flesh out, keeping the tail in tact. Slit down the centre of the flesh, and remove the entails. Set aside. 
  4. Blanch the tenderstem broccoli until just tender and plunge into ice water to refresh. 
  5. Halve all the gooseberries for the salad. 
  6. For the sauce: Bring the rooibos sticks or bag contents to boil with 200ml water and boil until about 30ml remains. Melt the butter in the saucepan and strain in the rooibos mixture, along with the wasabi paste, balsamic reduction, honey and half of the gooseberries. Whisk well, and keep on low heat until ready to serve. 
  7. To serve, you can heat up the crayfish tails a little in the same steam- contraption, or leave them cold. Drizzle with olive oil to moisten, and season with maldon salt. On a platter, arrange the broccoli and avocado slices, scatter the basil leaves and top with the crayfish tails (cut them in half if you like) and the remaining gooseberries. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and some of the butter sauce. Serve the rest in a sauce boat. Real suave. 

*Balsamic reduction is as easy as buying a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and reducing it on a hot stove until drizzling consistency. Test by putting a splodge on a plate in the freezer for a minute. Easy, now. It over- reduces easily. At least one high- end chef I know of cheats by adding sugar. Most foodies I know cheat by buying a bottle from the supermarket. Life is complicated enough as it is, I reckon. 

1 comment:

Megan Kate Swan said...

Aaah Carina, I am loving reading your blog everyday. Its amazing, well done my friend. xxx