Put the crab into a saucepan, cover with cold or barely lukewarm water (use 170 g salt to every 2.3 litres water). This sounds like an incredible amount of salt but try it: the crab will taste deliciously sweet. Cover, bring to the boil and then simmer from there on, allowing 15 minutes for the first 450 g, 10 minutes for the second and third (I’ve never come across a crab bigger than that!). We usually pour off two-thirds of the water halfway through cooking, cover and steam the crab for the remainder of the time. As soon as it is cooked remove it from the saucepan and allow to get cold.
First remove the large claws. Hold the crab with the underside uppermost and lever out the centre portion – I do this by catching the little lip of the projecting centre shell against the edge of the table and pressing down firmly. The Dead Mans Fingers (lungs) usually come out with this central piece, but check in case some are left in the body and, if so, remove them.
Press your thumb down over the light shell just behind the eyes so that the shell cracks slightly, and then the sac which is underneath can be removed easily. Everything else inside the body of the crab is edible. The soft meat varies in colour from cream to coffee to dark tan, and towards the end of the season it can contain quite a bit of bright orange coral which is stronger in flavour. Scoop it all out and put it into a bowl. There will also be one or two teaspoonsful of soft meat in the centre portion – add that to the bowl also. Scrub the shell and keep it aside if you need it for dressed crab.
Crack the large claws with a hammer or weight and extract every little bit of white meat from them, and from the small claws also, using a lobster pick, skewer or even the handle of a teaspoon.
Mix the brown and white meat together or use separately, depending on the recipe.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.