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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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!

Seafood feast!

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No, this is not what we eat every day in Sweden but I so wish it was! My first evening at the summer house (a Saturday) my parents and I had a proper seafood feast to celebrate being together again and my birthday the week before.

We love girolles almost as much as we love seafood and as they’re in season we started off with a proper girolle toast (fry the bread in butter, fry the girolles in more butter with garlic, add parsley) and bubbly and then got serious about the seafood. We had langoustines with garlic butter, fresh Swedish crayfish (such a treat!), crab claws and smoked prawns. Smoked prawns may sound weird but they are oh so delicious!

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It was such a wonderful meal with amazing seafood, great company and the accompaniment of bread, cheese and home made mayonnaise.

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Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

1/2 – 1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

ca 200 ml neutral oil (I used rapeseed oil) 

1 lemon, juice only

salt, white pepper

Mix the egg yolk with mustard and vinegar. Beat the egg mixture while adding the oil drop by drop. When the mixture has thickened you can add the oil in a thin spurt. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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. 

Seafood feast, Swedish caviar and girolle toast

IMG_8610In my family, we don’t need much of an excuse to have an extravagant dinner, but celebrating my belated birthday with my parents we went all out on the stuff we love – seafood.

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Girolles are usually in abundance in August, although the first little ‘shrooms can be found in the woods as early as June. In Sweden we worship girolles as their season coincide with the crayfish parties. The first ones I eat every late summer has to be served like this; fried in butter with garlic and parsley, served on bread also fried in butter (or at least toasted). So delicious!

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Then we went outside to the barbecue to grill some oysters. I love oysters regardless of how they are prepared but my parents prefer them warm.

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Simply place the opened shells on live coal until the juices start to bubble. Remove with a thick glove as they heat up quickly. Add lemon juice and tabasco and eat.

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After that exercise we had löjrom (Swedish caviar; vendace roe from Kalix) served in the classic manner with butter-fried toast, creme fraiche and chopped red onions.

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After that we got started on the seafood. We had smoked cold-water prawns, Swedish crayfish, langoustines and crab claws. All washed down with Taittinger Brut Réserve. Needless to say we did not need any pudding after all that…

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. 

Crayfish!

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My favourite time of year in Sweden is definitely the crayfish season! When I was a child you were not allowed to fish crayfish in the lakes until the first Wednesday in August when it was the crayfish premiere. This has since been changed so you are allowed to fish crayfish all year round but because we had this rule for such a long time, I don’t think it feels right to eat crayfish any earlier than August each year.

And that’s why I made sure to have some crayfish when I was at home in August. My last evening there I stayed in with my parents enjoying a nice meal.

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We started off with bubbly and some Parmesan biscuits. Then moved onto some leftovers from the party; tandoori chicken drumsticks with garlic sauce, salad and potato wedges.

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And then we had crayfish! Mummy thoroughly spoiled us with buying Swedish ones and they were delicious. It is pretty messy eating these babies, sucking and cracking their shells but oh so satisfying. I can still recall the taste… So yummy!