Hello friends *waves*. Here we are again – after a 7 month hiatus – and it feels so good to be back. It’s the longest break in Chew Town history. Why the long break? Well, 7 months ago I had a pretty blooming adorable baby girl. While I could easily become THAT mum that shares 1M photos of their adorable little one on this blog… you are here for the food and not the baby. So, you will just have to wait until she is old enough to start holding food for her mumma because I finally have a hand model in the making!! Cooking, styling and shooting for this blog and my food photography clients over at Amanda Michetti Photo for so many years on my own makes me more than a little excited for the tiny hands you are soon going to see pop up holding things #babiesholdingfood.
For my first post back, I wanted to share a recipe that is truly special to me and my Italian family. Blue Swimmer Crabs play a big part in my family’s history. My mother and father both emigrated to Australia separately and met and married in Western Australia. A short time after they married, my father (a hairdresser by trade) bought a block of land south of Perth in Mandurah as the family’s holiday house. My sister, brother and I spent all of our lives headed down south for weekends and holidays, and while the little shack he built is replaced by a large two story house to accommodate us all and our partners and children, the place is still very much the Mandurah of our childhood.
My father still owns and uses 40 year old “Chee-Chee”, the little retro boat he bought when he bought the block of land. Chee-Chee has had a few major overhauls in her day… but she is still the little boat that we all go out on to catch Blue Swimmer Crabs straight from the estuary in Mandurah.
I never really liked eating crabs when I was younger, but I did love catching them! Also known as a Blue Manna Crab, the Blue Swimmer Crab is found in coastal areas (mainly bays, estuaries and intidal areas) and is found around most of the Australian coast. They are caught using traps which are thrown into the water with bait. Mandurah is known for its blue swimmers (they even have an annual blue swimmer festival) but while I remember the days when your trap only needed to be in the water for 10 minutes before you’d have a lovely haul of crabs… those days are long gone. Overfishing in the area means that for many years a number of boats would take FAR more than their quota and also take undersized crabs – which is absolutely terrible for the ecosystem. My family only takes what we need for a single feed of crabs that day and we make sure we never take undersized crabs.
I’m happy to say that as I grew up, my palate did too so those days of not liking crab are long gone. Thank goodness, because this blue swimmer crab recipe is absolutely incredible and is the main way that we as a family have been enjoying blue swimmers for over 40 years. If you are going to eat crabs… you need to eat crabs! You need to get your hands dirty. This is not about someone picking all the bits of delicious crab meat out of the shell for you, it is about you taking the time to meticulously comb through your crab and eat the meat along with the delicious herbed pasta in whatever manner suits you.
For my husband that means playing the long game. He sits there with his nut cracker (to break through the crab legs) and his little seafood fork and gets every last bit of the crab out of its shell before tossing it in with his pasta and eating it all together. He is clearly much more patient than our family who (known for their impatience) eats a little of the crab and then a little of the pasta as we go.
While we have the absolute pleasure to enjoy this dish with crabs fresh from the estuary and herbs from the Mandurah kitchen garden, you can just as easily make this recipe with blue swimmer crabs from your local seafood shop. All you’ll need is a little extra white wine which I’ve mentioned in the recipe below.
Thanks for waiting for me to return to Chew Town. It is so wonderful to be able to share such a meaningful recipe for my first post back and I am excited to get back into the kitchen to concoct and share many more wonderful recipes with you.
Blue Swimmer Crab Pasta
- 6 Blue Swimmer Crabs, cleaned and halved
- 1 1/4 cups good quality olive oil
- 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, loosely packed
- 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh continental parsley, loosely packed
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 birds eye chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
- Pepper, to taste
- 450g packet of dried angel hair pasta
- IF USING STORE BOUGHT CRABS - 1 cup dry white wine
Fill a large pot with water and place on the cooktop to boil for the pasta. You do not need to salt the water in this instance, because the crabs will add the right amount of saltiness to the pasta.
Place another large saucepan (which can comfortably accommodate all crabs) on the cooktop on medium heat and add olive oil. Once oil is shimmering, lower the heat and add herbs, garlic and chilli. Saute over low heat until fragrant and softened, but do not let the garlic brown. Once the garlic has softened, add the crabs (and the white wine if you aren't using freshly caught crabs) to the pot and increase heat to medium high. Pop the lid on and once the crabs are pink underneath toss in the pot with the lid on to flip the crabs.
If you have smaller crabs, they will cook in about 10 minutes, larger crabs will take 20 minutes all up. When you have 4-5 minutes left, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until cooked. Once the pasta is cooked, drain.
Remove the crabs from the herbed oil and put aside. Toss the pasta in the herbed oil and then transfer to a large serving platter and top with the cooked crab. Serve immediately.