Cooking with crab: Pinch me now

Scary for some, but delicious to eat – crab is a delicacy, and there’s nothing wrong with the cooked, frozen sort

It drives me mad when I hear people saying that you can’t buy fresh, unpasteurised crab meat that’s cooked. Cooking it is a form of pasteurisation! It’s no worse than frozen peas. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

It drives me mad when I hear people saying that you can’t buy fresh, unpasteurised crab meat that’s cooked. Cooking it is a form of pasteurisation! It’s no worse than frozen peas. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Sadly, not all ingredients are created equal. And if ever there was a food that shows just how true this is, it is crab.

I have a real phobia about crabs, like some people have with spiders. The sight of them – even encased and submerged in a glass tank – makes me shriek. Makes me want to get as far away as possible. With their creepy, clackety claws (that can break your finger), stalky eyes and penchant for cannibalism.. I can’t even stomach them on TV (sorry, Sir Attenborough, but these creatures move sideways; that’s just not normal).

But, I do love to eat them, as long as someone else will cook them. So, what type of crabmeat do you buy? I personally am fine with the freshly cooked and frozen varieties you can find in posh delis.

It’s Irish, caught, cooked and frozen. It drives me mad when I hear people saying that you can’t buy fresh, unpasteurised crab meat that’s cooked. Cooking it is a form of pasteurisation! It’s no worse than frozen peas. But I do accept there are some exceptionally creepy tinned or plastic container packs of crab that seem to swim in briney sludge. No thanks.

Either way, you have to remove the meat from the packaging and pick through it for fine parts of shell – there are nearly always a few shards that have slipped through. And then you are ready to roll.

As was I when I came across a crab salad by Amelia Freer, a nutritional therapist and author of Eat, Nourish, Glow. I love this kind of food – fresh, zingy, crunchy – and it inspired me to come up with a nutrient-packed version of my own that makes a little crab go a long way, in part thanks to a lemony, minty, gingery dressing so good I could nearly drink it by itself.

The original salad recipe called for blood orange, but they proved mighty hard to find. I have heard a story of a food stylist who paid $30 for a single blood orange, which had to be couriered to her for a shoot!

Can you imagine? Anyway, if you can find them, great, but if you can’t, just replace it with one ruby grapefruit and one orange, though do be aware that grapefruit can adversely affect certain prescription medications (check with your pharmacist). If in doubt, stick to plain old oranges.

The dressing would also be lovely with poached chicken or salmon.

dkemp@irishtimes.com

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