Friday, 11 February 2011

Crabbing, edible shore crab bisque and Thai style coconut crab bisque.

Now, I've seen this recipe a few times. First from the well know piscine chef Rick Stein then in John Wrights book The Edible seashore. Controversially I think Mr Wright may have um do I say this..I think he may have 'allegedly' copied and pasted this straight from Mr Steins book.

The result of this recipe is an absolutely outstanding and elegant dish. The big downfall is, that it takes hours to prepare and if , like me you only have a rather elderly hand blender or a dodgy cheap liquidizer, it can seem like really hard work.

We live near West Bay in Dorset and when the sun is shining and there's a holiday feeling in the air we love to head down to the harbour and go crabbing for these edible shore crabs.

You are allowed to crab and take home edible shore crabs all year round and they are not protected.

Now, we've all seen those orange crab lines, avoid these. If you do manage to catch a crab with them it's likely to be only one. You'll find you'll have to slowly raise your line from the bottom of the harbour taking care not to bump it or alarm the crab. What regularly happens is that just before you get to the point where you can grab your crab it lets go and all you are left with is disappointment.

The smart way to do it is to buy a crabbing net (usually about £2-3). This you can bait with something smelly and preferably meaty or fishy. We always use the same, rather elderly and no doubt hygienically dubious bit of mackeral that we carefully re bag and put back in the freezer after use. It's piquancy gives us more of a fighting chance I think......

Lower the net in the water until it lands on the bottom and then tie the end of your string to a post. This stops you from losing the net accidentally- I speak from experience. Wait a few minutes and pull it up again. The crabs will be sitting on the bottom of the net happily chomping away at the bait. We tip our crabs into a big plastic box, half filled with sea water and with a lid (to stop them from escaping). A mixing bowls worth of edible shore crabs makes able 1 small bowl of bisque.

Rick Steins Shore crab bisque


  • 900g/2lb shore crabs or other shellfish
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 50g/2oz onion,chopped
  • 50g/2oz carrot, chopped
  • 50g/2oz celery, chopped
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 85ml/3fl oz dry white wine
  • 1 good-sized sprig of fresh tarragon
  • 1.75l/3pt fish stock
  • 50ml/2fl oz double cream
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Method
    1. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil, drop in the crabs then bring them back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes. Strain and let the crabs cool a little, then chop with a large knife.
    2. Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and the bay leaf. Cook without browning. Stir once or twice then add the crab. Stir, then add the cognac. Allow to boil off then add the tomatoes, tomato purée, wine, tarragon and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
    3. Remove the tough claw shells from the soup before liquidizing in a liquidizer or food processor in two or three batches. Process in short bursts until the shell is broken into small pieces about the size of your finger nail. Avoid producing puréed shell, the aim is to extract all possible flavour from any meat left sticking to the shell, particularly in the body section, rather than to extract flavour from the shell itself. Strain the soup through a conical strainer pushing as much liquid through as you can with the back of a ladle to extract all the juices.
    4. Then, pass the soup through a fine strainer before returning to the heat. Bring to the boil, add the cream then season with cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Reduce the volume by simmering if you think the flavour needs concentrating.

    Thai style coconut crab bisque.

    Follow the method above but omit the cream and cayenne pepper and add a large tablespoon of Thai red curry paste (see

    Just before serving stir in a tin of coconut milk, sprinkle with coriander leaves and add a big squeeze of fresh lime juice and a shake of nam pla (Thai fish sauce).
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