FOOD: Grilled mud crab with curry but­ter.

The Saturday Paper - - The Week Contents - David Moyle

I was lucky enough to re­cently find my­self on an im­mense cat­tle sta­tion in the Gulf of Car­pen­taria with a group of friends.

This par­tic­u­lar sta­tion runs Brah­man cat­tle, the seem­ingly nat­u­ralised breed that is in abun­dance in the north. Cu­ri­ously, this breed amounts to just a very small per­cent­age of do­mes­tic con­sump­tion. Ob­serv­ing the prac­tice of land man­age­ment in this unique cli­mate, with ef­fec­tively zero soil in­put and very gen­tle herd man­age­ment, made me won­der why it isn’t more pop­u­lar, if only from an eth­i­cal per­spec­tive.

We camped, fished, hunted and gath­ered among the broad bio­di­ver­sity that ex­isted on the prop­erty. As it was the end of the wet sea­son, there were huge and com­plex river and fresh­wa­ter sys­tems teem­ing with bar­ra­mundi, mus­sels, crazy birdlife and mud crabs. Any­way, mud crabs!

The most com­mon way to dis­patch crus­taceans is to plunge them straight into the boil­ing pot. There are two ma­jor is­sues with this – they suf­fer badly and also in the stress they tend to shoot their legs off as a de­fence mech­a­nism and ab­sorb the wa­ter. Crabs have a com­plex cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and it has been proved a myth that putting them into boil­ing wa­ter is hu­mane.

The best way I have found is to place them in a freezer for one hour be­fore turn­ing them on their back and pulling the tail flap out to ex­pose the cen­tral meet­ing point with the “ster­num”. I then punch a sharp­en­ing steel into the chest to no deeper than two cen­time­tres. It’s a com­pletely un­sci­en­tific ap­proach but

• the re­sult speaks for it­self.

Grilled mud crab with curry but­ter

Serves 4

– 2 live mud crabs

– 10ml grape­seed oil

– 2 shal­lots (minced)

– ½ tsp Keen’s Tra­di­tional Curry Pow­der – 20ml fish sauce

– 100g cul­tured but­ter

– 30ml le­mon juice

– salt Once the crab has been dis­patched as de­scribed, cut the body through the cen­tre line be­tween the legs. Re­move the head shell – with a move­ment from back to front is best and clean­est – be­fore re­mov­ing the gills and gut. The “mus­tard” is the yel­low-coloured paste-like sub­stance in the body, ef­fec­tively the liver. Retain this by re­mov­ing it gen­tly with a spoon. Pull the claws off and you should be left with four parts – two sec­tions of leg and the two claws. Place the claws first onto a gen­tle heat over a grill and keep rolling them around for five min­utes, en­sur­ing the heat is evenly placed. Then add the legs to the grill as these will cook faster. All up, the crab should need to cook for about 12 min­utes. While the meat is rest­ing pre­pare the sauce. Place the “mus­tard” into a pot and cook in the oil un­til it be­gins to melt. Stir reg­u­larly. Add the shal­lots for one minute be­fore adding the curry pow­der and the fish sauce. Then add the but­ter in small quan­ti­ties at a time un­til it is all emul­si­fied. Fin­ish with the le­mon juice and sea­son with salt. Crack the claws us­ing a mal­let or your favourite nov­elty crab crack­ers. I find this dish is best eaten di­rectly by pick­ing the meat as you eat it. Use the sauce as you de­sire, ei­ther by slather­ing it on top of the meat or by dip­ping as you go.

Wine pair­ing:

2017 Mal­laluka ries­ling, Can­berra district, ($27) – Mike Ben­nie, wine and drinks jour­nal­ist

DAVID MOYLE is a chef. He is a food ed­i­tor of The Satur­day Pa­per.

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