Crayfish

Crayfish Tails 

South African Crayfish (Spiny Lobster) with their long antennae and rough, spiny carapace (shell), are one of the delights of the crustacean world.

The meat, most of which is found in the tail, is sweet, firm-textured and very white when cooked. It can be used in any recipe needing lobster.

Crayfish, more correctly known as spiny lobster or rock lobster, or in Afrikaans “kreef”, live in the sea and are found under rocky ledges or crawling along the seabed. The two commercially available varieties in South Africa are the West Coast Rock Lobster (Jasus lalandii) found in the colder west coast waters and the East Coast Rock Lobster (Panulirus homarus).

The firm, sweet flesh beneath the horny outer covering of the creature is regarded by many as the most delicious of all South Africa’s seafoods. Most of the flesh is found in the long abdomen – incorrectly but commonly called the “tail” – and within the claws and legs.

Within living memory South African crayfish were both common and cheap, however today the price certainly places them in the luxury food bracket, unless you are lucky enough to be able to catch your own.

Allow ½ large or 1 small crayfish per serving. They may be bought live, ready cooked and frozen, or as crayfish tails. When buying fresh crayfish, make certain the tail is tightly curled into the body and snaps back when straightened, and that the crayfish is heavy for its size. The smell should be sweet and fresh. A 1–1,5 kg crayfish is ideal; larger ones tend to be rather tough so are best avoided.

The European lobster or French homard from northern seas differs from the South African crayfish in that it has large pincer claws, containing much of the sweet juicy meat, and a smooth, shiny carapace.

Where and How to Buy Crayfish
Handling Live Crayfish
A crayfish that has been “gently killed” before cooking is said to have a sweet, tender flavour. One method is to fill a large bucket with fresh water and immerse the crayfish completely until it is dead. This takes about half an hour. Another method is to place the crayfish alive in boiling water, experts say it is kinder to stun the crayfish on the back of the head first. Overseas it is customary to kill this type of shellfish by plunging a knife into the head and splitting it.
Handling Frozen Crayfish
Defrost crayfish completely before cooking. This applies to whole frozen crayfish and to crayfish “tails”. Depending on the size, defrosting takes from 2–5 hours. Proceed as for fresh crayfish.
Freezing Crayfish
Preparing Raw Crayfish
Alternative Cutting Method
Cooking Crayfish in Liquid
Grilling Crayfish
Grilled Crayfish 
Even with a preheated grill, you’ll find grilling tends to singe the outside of the crayfish before the inside is properly cooked.
A more satisfactory result is obtained by preheating the whole oven to 200°C (390°F) and only then turning the grill on full and starting the cooking process.
The heat from the bottom of the oven reduces the cooking time so that the top flesh does not char badly and the edges of the shell still look neat.
Frequent basting is essential to ensure that the flesh stays succulent. It is worth taking the trouble to clarify the butter to obtain an even browning and avoid unsightly scorching.
Fisherman’s Steamed Crayfish
This old method attributed to Cape Malay fishermen is perhaps the best method of cooking fresh crayfish. The live crayfish is wrapped in a sack or thick newpaper soaked with sea water. The sack is fitted into a paraffin tin which is placed on the coals. The crayfish is then dry steamed. Check whether it is cooked after about 15 minutes.
How to Eat Crayfish
Recipes

Category: South African Cuisine

Subcategory: Seafood - Crustaceans