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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Recipe: gravadlax (cured salmon) with apple and dijon crème

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I served this lovely canapé at the crayfish party in September, but you can make it any time of year; in Sweden we eat gravad lax all year round. We have it at Christmas, for Easter, Midsummer and in between.

I liked the idea of serving a canapé on forks, especially as I knew the guests would mingle around the garden, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use plastic ones (they’re hideous, bad for the environment and usually break), and the wooden ones don’t taste nice. Instead I bought silver plated vintage forks on eBay and Etsy; much better quality and much more me.

I cured the salmon according to this recipe, but the mustard crème and the general recipe idea is courtesy of Pytte and her lovely (Swedish) book Bjud hem!

Cured salmon with apple and dijon crème, approx 30 canapés

400 g cured salmon

2 apples, cut into small cubes

Dijon crème:

100 ml creme fraiche

1 tbsp dijon

2 tsp runny honey

salt and pepper

To decorate:

extra dill, chopped

Mix the ingredients for the crème, season to taste and leave in a cool place until serving. Slice the salmon and put on forks. Place the forks on a serving tray or platter and top with apple cubes, dijon crème and maybe some extra dill. 

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. 

Hot smoked salmon spread for crostinis

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The London crayfish party was a success and so much fun! There was only ten of us but we managed to demolish 5 kgs crayfish and drink two bottles of snaps (as well as beer and wine) and sing snaps songs. Thank you to everyone involved for embracing my country’s silly traditions and being such fun guests!

Before we started on the crayfish though, we had some prosecco and nibbles. I usually start a dinner party with nibbles as I think it’s such a nice informal way to start the evening and get people chatting. One of the nibbles I made was this hot smoked salmon spread. I just put it in a bowl and the guests assembled their own crostinis.

Hot smoked salmon spread, enough for 5 people as a nibble

Adapted after and translated from Arla’s recipe.

350 g hot smoked salmon fillets (no bones)

200 ml soured cream

2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish

1/2 bunch chives

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, black pepper

Check the salmon for bones and remove them and any skin. Place in a bowl and mush it with a fork. Add soured cream, horseradish (Ocado has the fresh stuff) and lemon juice. Add the lemon juice and season to taste. Keep refrigerated until serving. 

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.