Good news from the freezer aisle

Head to the freezer aisles for frozen prawns and crab for these versatile lunch, brunch or supper dishes


Fishermen have told me recently that with the cold weather that’s been upon us, both crab and lobster have been hiding away and are nowhere to be found. “An absolute luxury”, is what one fish supplier said. You would think that Mother Nature would have triggered some keep-fit-and-stay-warm reaction in these crustaceans, but apparently not. They lay low and wait for warmer waters and plentiful grub.

Luckily for us, the freezer aisles are usually abounding with prawns and crab, both of which are perfectly acceptable in these recipes. There is nothing sinister in the freezing of fresh crabmeat. I have often had this argument with people who say you can’t buy decent fresh crab meat anywhere and the only stuff available is pasteurised. Unless you buy live crabs, it’s true that you probably can’t buy fresh raw crab meat, but you can buy really good quality cooked crab meat from Irish companies.

Some fishmongers store crabs in tanks but they are cranky things and will end up attacking each other – the crabs, not the fishmongers – which is why most places don’t have them.

If you want to buy live crabs, go to a harbour town and have a chat with one of the lads heading out to sea. I am sure they’ll get you a few, but it is much easier to buy really good, cooked Irish crabmeat that is available both fresh and frozen and is a million miles away from creepy crab sticks, or the tinned variety that’s more like cat-food than a luxury product.

It is best to eat this crab rarebit dish, which is part souffle, part rarebit, while it is still warm and bubbling from being under the grill. I let some leftovers go cold and served them later to hungry colleagues at a wine tasting and they were a bit tough and chewy. If you want to really impress someone, it is best to get up early some morning and make this as a delicious brunch dish when you can’t quite get it together to make an omelette Arnold Bennett (as if anyone can), or when smoked salmon and scrambled eggs seem a bit dull. It is also equally satisfying with a big green salad and a glass of something deliciously cool and crisp.

The prawn and barley salad is perfect with warmer weather approaching, when the possibility of eating a meal outside is starting to wink at you. You could happily ditch the prawns and exchange them for some fried chunks of haloumi, which you can just chop into slices and fry in a little olive oil and, if no one is looking, a tiny bit of butter, until golden brown. If time is of the essence, some hunks of feta will do.

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