Coaxing that taste out of its shell

Of all the foods available to us today, I have to admit one of my all-time favourites is crab. Succulent and sweet, crab is one of life's simple pleasures and an absolute treat, especially if you are not the one who's doing the picking.

While New Zealand may not boast giant crabs like those found elsewhere in the world, our humble paddle crab is fairly common along our coasts and its flesh is exceptionally sweet. As a child, I often went crabbing in rock pools for fun. At the time, I didn't realise that, just a little further off shore, there were masses of paddle crabs, perfect for eating. It was only years later after returning home from overseas, when I saw some local lads pulling in a good feed in the Oamaru Harbour I finally twigged and, after asking around, I discovered we have good-eating crabs commercially harvested right here in the South and throughout many other parts of the country.

Picking the meat from cooked crabs is not everyone's idea of fun, and it puts a lot of people off but if you can find them, they are usually cheap to buy and all you need is a little effort to get to that wonderful meat.

Fresh crab needs very little to let it shine.

Simply bound with homemade mayonnaise and herbs and served on fresh bread, crab is just sublime.

Gazpacho soup topped with a little crab is a great way to cool down as the weather heats up, and for a truly fantastic meal crab and fennel risotto is hard to beat.

So, if you haven't thought about crab recently, think again.

Get out there and go crabbing or simply talk to your local fishmonger because crab is one of life's inexpensive luxuries and all you need to do is get picking


Photos by Fiona Andersen.
Photos by Fiona Andersen.
Crab and fennel risotto
Serves 4


30ml olive oil
20g butter
½ red onion, finely chopped
Centre of 1 bunch celery, finely chopped
2 medium or 1 large fennel bulb, finely shaved
250g risotto rice
80ml Noilly Prat vermouth or 150ml dry white wine
500ml chicken or vegetable stock, heated and lightly seasoned, warmed
Crab meat picked from 6 large paddle crabs
40g parmesan, shaved
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup fennel leaf, chopped
Salt and pepper
1½ cups baby rocket leaves (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil


Heat olive oil and half the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add vegetables and sweat without colour until soft and translucent, stirring often. Add risotto rice and cook for 1 minute before adding Nolly Prat. Continue to stir frequently and once rice has absorbed the alcohol, add warm stock, in small amounts, stirring between each addition. After 10 to 15 minutes, test rice by biting into a few grains. When it has almost lost its crunch it is nearly ready. Fold in crab meat, remaining butter, half the parmesan, lemon juice and herbs and season to taste. Risotto should be fairly wet with the rice coated in the liquor. Add a little more stock if necessary. Divide between 4 plates and top with remaining parmesan and rocket. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Wine: Lightly oaked chardonnay.


Gazpacho with paddle crab
Serves 4


4 large ripe tomatoes
4 red capsicums, core and seeds removed
1 telegraph cucumber
½ small red onion, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
100ml extra virgin olive oil
75ml good quality red wine
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Crab meat picked from 4-5 large paddle crabs
¼ cup chives, finely chopped


To make gazpacho, roughly chop vegetables and blend in a food processor until as smooth as possible. Pass through a coarse sieve or mouli, add olive oil and vinegar and mix well. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.

Place gazpacho into a stainless bowl and chill completely, either in a refrigerator or over ice. Once chilled, divide soup between four bowls and scatter with fresh-picked paddle crab and chives. Finish with a little extra olive oil if desired.

Wine: Light rosé


Crab mayonnaise with sourdough, salad greens and lemon
Serves 4


300g fresh picked crab meat
3 Tbsp fresh mayonnaise
Quarter cup chives, finely chopped
Quarter cup parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fennel herb, finely chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 cup parsley, picked and washed
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup rocket
Quarter small red onion, finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup cabbage, shaved (optional)
1 lemon, cut into quarters
2 Tbsp lemon dressing
4 slices sourdough

Makes 500ml

2 free-range egg yolks
¼ clove garlic, peeled
2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
400ml canola oil
100ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

Lemon dressing
Makes 1 cup

Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup canola oil
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 pinches of sea salt
1 pinch black pepper


Place picked crab meat in a stainless steel bowl with mayonnaise, chives, parsley and fennel. Lightly mix together and season to taste with a little salt and pepper. Divide between 4 plates. In a separate bowl, toss together remaining salad ingredients with lemon dressing.

Serve salad on the side with sourdough and lemon wedges.


Place egg yolks, mustard, garlic and lemon juice into a food processor and blend. Whilst blending, slowly add canola oil and then olive oil until a thick mayonnaise is formed. Season to taste and adjust with a little hot water to thin if necessary. Keeps in the refrigerator for a week.

Lemon dressing

Place all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Wine: Pinot grigio.


Bevan and Monique Smith own the multi-award winning Riverstone Kitchen, just south of the Waitaki bridge in North Otago. Bevan is also author of Riverstone Kitchen: recipes from a chef's garden and Riverstone Kitchen Simple.



Add a Comment