Recipe: boiling crayfish

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The last few years I have made sure to invite my London friends to a proper Swedish crayfish party, as it’s my favourite non-holiday holiday in my native country. I usually buy the pre-cooked frozen crayfish from the Swedish shop but last year I actually found a crayfish seller who sold fresh crayfish caught in local lakes or ponds. The price was almost the same, and the quality so much better, but I also really wanted to cook my own crayfish!

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Compared to lobsters who you usually cook in boiling water, we cook crayfish in a sort of brine that we then leave the crayfish in until we eat them, adding a salty dilly taste to the crustaceans.

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My London friends love crayfish as much as I do, so I ordered 7 kg for 12 of us, which may sound like a lot, but we ate every single one. It was a little tricky cooking that many with not that many large pans to hand but I managed*, and had a good time in the process experimenting with two types of brine; one with just salt, sugar and dill and one with beer in (a common practice for cooking crayfish) that add more depth to the flavour.

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Boiling crayfish, basic recipe

20 crayfish

2 1/2 litre water

75-100 ml salt

1 tsp sugar

plenty of dill flowers (dill seeds can be used instead)

Make sure all the crayfish are alive, discard any dead ones. Rinse in cold water. Bring water, salt, sugar and dill flowers to the boil. Put the crayfish in a colander and lower it into the boiling brine to cook the crayfish. Cook for 10 minutes, from the brine starts boiling again. Leave to cool in the brine, keep cold and eat within 24 hours. 

Boiling crayfish, with beer

20 crayfish

2 1/2 litre water

1 litre beer

75-100 ml salt

1 tsp sugar

plenty of dill flowers (dill seeds can be used instead)

Make sure all the crayfish are alive, discard any dead ones. Rinse in cold water. Bring water, beer, salt, sugar and dill flowers to the boil. Put the crayfish in a colander and lower it into the boiling brine to cook the crayfish. Cook for 10 minutes, from the brine starts boiling again. Leave to cool in the brine, keep cold and eat within 24 hours. 

*The trickiest part was actually storing 7 kgs of crayfish in its brine in a cold place. The fridge surely wasn’t large enough and it was full of all the other food we were having with the crayfish, so I put them in bowls and pans in the bath and filled it with ice. Bonus pic:

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Puff pastry squares with girolles and Västerbotten cheese

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The second nibble we had with the pre-crayfish prosecco was these lovely puff pastry squares with fried girolles and Swedish Västerbotten cheese (any other sharp cheese will do, but Västerbotten is a must with crayfish). I’m so pleased I can now by girolles with my food orders from a decent supermarket I come up with any excuse to buy them and this is a good way to use them. But to make them go a bit further (as they’re not the cheapest of shrooms) I threw in some chestnut mushrooms as well.

Puff pastry squares with girolles and Västerbotten cheese, serves 5 people as only nibble

1 roll  all butter puff

600 g mushrooms (I had approx 400 g girolles and 200 g chestnut mushrooms) 

a knob of butter for frying 

1 garlic clove, chopped 

1 bunch parsley, chopped

30 g Västerbotten cheese, finely grated

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Roll out the puff onto a parchment paper covered baking tray and cut into squares. Clean the mushrooms and slice. Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat and fry the mushrooms until golden in batches. Add the garlic towards the end. Add salt, pepper and parsley. Leave to cool. 

Distribute the mushrooms on the puff. Scatter grated Västerbotten cheese on top and bake until golden. Serve immediately. 

Crayfish!

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As I’m hosting a crayfish party tonight I thought I’d share these pictures from my last crayfish dinner in Sweden. I managed to eat crayfish twice in the two and a bit weeks I was at home, and lots of other lovely seafood too, but I am just as excited about tonight’s festivities with my London friends.

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But back to the crayfish party in Sweden. It was just a family affair so we started with rösti, Kalix roe (bleak roe from Kalix), creme fraiche and chopped red onions. This is such a Swedish classic it’s almost a cliché but I absolutely love it (as do most Swedes!). IMG_6758

We had two types of crayfish, both fresh, Swedish and Turkish. They were both nice but the Swedish ones were the nicest. 
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We also had a typical Västerbotten cheese quiche (here with fried girolles on top) which is a must with the crayfish, bread, cheese and of course snaps. 

Crayfish party or not – have a nice weekend!

Crayfish party! (Oh yeah)

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A few weels ago my flatmate Daisy and I decided to host a proper Swedish crayfish party. And I’m so glad we did because it turned out really well! We were an eclectic mix of nationalities but everyone was super psyched up about eating crayfish and drinking snaps. Thanks guys!

It was a Friday night and when we waited for everyone to arrive we sat outside as it was a mild evening and had some Prosecco and some Pimm’s with elderflower and blackberries (with lemonade and club soda) and had a few nibbles. One was Swedish crispbread topped with a herring and egg salad. Very Scandi and for those not fancying herring we also had crostini with tapenade.

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As you can see we had proper crayfish knives and crayfish hats!

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With the mountain of crayfish (at the middle of the table) we had a Västerbotten cheese quiche which is a must at every crayfish party. (Thanks Ocado for having that and lots of other goodies in your Swedish shop!) The quiche was decorated with lumpfish roe, creme fraiche, chopped red onions and dill. We also had bread, cheese, cream cheese with caraway, honey and dill, wild garlic mayo, saffron mayo and new potato and girolles salad and a regular green salad with radishes and avocado.

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It was such a fun evening complete with crayfish peeling tutorials form the Swedes, snaps songs and lots of laughter. We also had pudding very late at night but it was so good I think it deserves its own post.

Herring and egg canapé, makes about 25

200 g (1 tin) matjes herring, drained and roughly chopped

3 hardboiled eggs, chopped

1/2 jar red lumpfish roe

chopped dill

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp creme fraiche or soured cream

crispbread

Mix all the ingredients, season to taste with salt and white pepper. Break up the crispbread and place a dollop of the herring mixture on each piece. Decorate with dill.   

Saffron mayonnaise

200 ml sunflower oil

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

a large pinch of saffron

2 tsp warm water

lemon juice

salt

white pepper

Mix saffron with warm water. Add half of the saffron water to the egg yolk and mix a little before starting mixing in the oil, drip by drip at first and then in a gentle pour while using a stick blender. Season with lemon juice, add the remaining saffron water and season with salt and pepper. Leave for half an hour before serving (for the flavours to develop). 

New potato and girolles salad, serves 8 on a buffet

1 kg baby new potatoes, boiled and cut in half

200 ml (2 handfuls) girolles

salted butter for frying

1 garlic clove

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

sherry vinegar 

olive oil

salt, pepper

chopped parsley

Fry the girolles and pressed garlic in butter. Season. Put the onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water for 5 minutes. Drain. Add the onions and girolles to the potatoes. Add a nice olive oil and some sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Season to taste. Add chopped parsley and serve. 

Two types of crostini to start a dinner party

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Last Friday a few of my girl friends came over for dinner and while waiting for everyone to arrive we had some bubbly, this sparkling wine from Loire, and crisps. When most people had arrived I brought out two types of crostini, still casually sitting on the sofas.

One of the toppings were suppose to be the same as on Toast Öjeby, a mixture of crayfish, sharp cheese, dill, cumin and honey, but as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s both failed to deliver crayfish, I made the same mixture with coldwater prawns instead. And parsley instead of dill as I hadn’t bought enough (yep, it was one of those weeks). Substituting the crayfish with prawns worked well flavour wise but it didn’t look as pretty. As one of my friends is not that keen on shellfish I also served a bunch of crostini topped with homemade gravadlax (cured salmon) and dill cream cheese.

Crostini with gravadlax crostini and dill cream cheese, makes 30

500 g salmon fillet

2 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp chopped dill

1 large baguette

olive oil

150 g cream cheese

1 handful dill, finely chopped

1 tsp dijon mustard

a dash of honey

salt and pepper

Start 48 hours before serving. Remove the skin from the salmon. Mix sugar, salt and dill and pat it onto the fish. Place in a small dish and cover with cling. Refrigerate for 48 hours. 

Before serving, make the crostini by slicing the baguette thinly, placing the slices on parchment paper on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in 200C oven until crisp and golden, approx 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Pat the salmon dry with kitchen towel and slice thinly. Mix cream cheese with dill, honey and mustard. Season. Divide the salmon slices on the crostini, place a teaspoon sized dollop of dilly cream cheese on top, season and serve. 

Dill mayonnaise

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Crayfish season is typically in August and it’s fine to stretch it to September too, but the end of October is a completely different season, which is why I decided to serve my crayfish as a starter instead of the full spread with Västerbotten cheese quiche, caraway cheese, snaps etc, the other day.

As dill is traditionally used in the brine for the crayfish I chose to enhanced that element further by serving a dill mayonnaise together with the crayfish (still to peel at the table) as well as a nice crusty bread and butter. Simple yet lovely.

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Dill mayonnaise, serves 2-4

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

150-200 ml dill oil (I used a Swedish one from Gunnarshögs gård, pictured)

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, white pepper

1-2 tbsp chopped dill

Place the egg yolk in a mixing bowl and start whisking while adding the oil drop by drop at first and then in a thin stream while whisking continuously until you have a thick mayonnaise. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the chopped dill. 

Toast Öjeby

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The more famous cousin to this recipe is the classic Toast Skagen (prawns with mayonnaise and dill served on buttery toast) served at many restaurants and dinner parties over the years. I absolutely love it. But this Toast Öjeby is lovely too and very different in flavour.

The key ingredients here are crayfish tails (buy good quality ones), sharp cheese, caraway seeds and honey. Mayonnaise to bind it all together and dill to complement the crayfish. It really is superb and a great example of Scandinavian flavours!

I served mine on thin slices of baguette fried golden in butter and I promise you that’s all you need (bar a nice glass of white wine) to enjoy this.

Öjebytoast, serves 4

Translated from and adapted after Annika’s recipe.

340 gram crayfish tails
125 gram Swedish Västerbotten cheese, which I substituted with sharp cheddar, finely grated
1 tbsp caraway seeds
2  tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tsp honey

3 heaped tablespoons homemade (omit the chipotle) or Hellman’s mayonnaise

Drain the crayfish tails if needed and finely chop them. Mix with mayonnaise, grated cheese, caraway seeds and dill. Add the honey to taste, but you need at least a teaspoon. Season. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Serve on slices of baguette, fried golden in salted butter. And a glass of wine.