Monday, 7 November 2011

Potting Crayfish

If you go down to the river today….look out for crayfish! The American Signal Crayfish is causing mischief and mayhem in our waterways. They’re bigger and badder than our little native crayfish and are rapidly destructing their habitat, eating their food, and spreading disease.

During the 1970s, a new inland form of aquaculture took hold across the UK as a response to the public’s growing acceptance to new foods and flavours. Ponds and lakes were stocked with fast growing crayfish from America. Inevitably, they escaped before too long and have been having a great time ever since – spreading across most of the UK, hidden deep under water. Something must be done to control the invasive Crayfish before it’s too late for our native stock….eat the bastards!
Find Crayfish at farmers’ markets, food fairs, on decent menus (the Kingham Plough makes lovely use of them), or catch your own. All you need is a small trap (similar to a lobster pot), some bait (fish guts work well) and a licence from the Environmental Agency.
These fine specimens were caught in Cotswold spring-water fed ponds near Moreton-in-Marsh, and were sweet and juicy. In the kitchen they are just as versatile as any seaside crustacean.  To kill the Crayfish, place them in a box in the freezer for 15 minutes, they chill out and begin to go into hibernation. Bring a large pan of salted water to a rapid boil, and tip the sleeping Crayfish in. They die immediately from the temperature shock, and turn bright red in seconds. Boil for 3-4 minutes, and then plunge into iced water to halt the cooking (an over –cooked crayfish is a soggy morsel). They are now ready for peeling and eating.
I potted my Moreton Crayfish, much like Morecambe Bay pots its Shrimps.

For 100g of cooked, shelled Crayfish, clarify 100g of unsalted butter by melting it ion a pan slowly, and scooping off the white, creamy solids. Add generous pinches of cayenne, freshly grated mace and nutmeg, and take off the heat. Add the Crayfish and a good half teaspoon of salt. Pour the butter and Crayfish into a small dish and leave to set. If all the Crayfish are well buried below the butter, this will last for a good week.

To serve, allow the potted Crayfish to warm up a little, so the butter is spreadable, and eat on hot, brown toast.    

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