You know me, once I get an idea in my head I just can’t shake it, probably the same reason why I have ended up with so many tattoos but this week’s obsession has been yabbies.
I have the vaguest memory sitting on the banks of a creek somewhere near Albury with my cousins, dragging up crudely made chicken-wire yabbie traps and twitching with fascination at the creatures crawling about. I don’t remember cooking them and I don’t remember peeling them but I sure do remember their sweetness. This must have been one of my first forays into the world of crustaceans and I still thank the powers that be that I wasn’t freaked out by their appearance.
I haven’t really given yabbies much thought over the years - you just don’t see them in the markets or fishmongers often. Every time you ask a monger if they have any they will guaranteed say "ah yeah, had 'em in last week" which is totally unhelpful. As for catching our own, well I have ended up with a life partner who dismisses the thought of camping before it’s even mentioned. This is highly disappointing – I’ve even begged on social media for someone to take me camping but I didn’t get any bites. Do you have any idea how much I want to recreate the Brady’s trip to the Grand Canyon and eat franks from a thermos?
The yabbie obsessiveness this week came from a recipe I wanted to have a crack at – clambake. Sure, Elvis had something to do with it but I came across a picture on the Internet of potatoes, clams, corn and crawfish splayed out on a table and I just had to do it. Crawfish, crayfish, lobsters – I can’t justify that for one person’s lunch but I can justify yabbies.
I’m no expert but yabbies are freshwater crustaceans, living in the muddy beds of creeks and dams. Like most of us, they dig a little warmth and lay dormant in the cooler months hence their lack of showmanship at the fishmongers. Restrictions on numbers also make them a little inaccessible – 200 a day maximum for any commercial or private operation. I couldn’t eat 200 yabbies but would give it a bloody good crack.
I will be having a go at the clambake today (actually it will be a clamboil – thanks to Bayside council, enormous flaming holes filled with seaweed and yabbies is banned on St Kilda beach) but I couldn’t wait to turn some of these babies from blue to red so here is this little number I made for dinner: Yabbies with lime and spaghettini.
Yabbies with lime and spaghettini
Serves two for an entrée, easily doubled.
15 Minutes from woah to go
If you struggle to get yabbie tails, king prawns or scampi make a decent substitute.
10-12 freshwater yabbies
2 egg yolks
Enough pasta per person (I know this varies… you have your own measurement system)
Juice and zest of half a lime
Greatest salt you can find – I used black salt
Ground black pepper
½ teaspoon butter
Look, I don’t want to question your ethics but having spent the beginning of this year as a vegan, I struggle with ending the mortal coil of a creature’s life. However the most humane way to do this for crustaceans is kiss them on the forehead read them their last rites and place them in the freezer. They drift off to sleep, unlike us who would be whinging how bloody cold it was first. I did panic when defrosting, thinking if they come back to life I will FREAK out, but they didn’t… You can then throw them in a pot of boiling salted water for about 7-8 minutes until they turn a nice ochre colour. Take a large knife and where the tail meets the head, cut and discard head section. Similar to a prawn, peel the tail and remove the digestive tract (or as my dad used to say – ‘the poop shoot’. He was a fan of technical terms, my dad)
Boil your spaghettini in a separate pot as per directions, about 10 minutes.
Whisk together the egg yolks and lime juice until combined. Drain pasta retaining a small amount of water – this is simple as quickly tipping it into a colander and then straight back in the pot. Quickly tip the egg yolks into the pasta, add butter and continue to stir until they make a nice creamy coating on the strands – similar to how you would make a carbonara.
Throw in yabbie tails and serve on a plate or pasta bowl, season with salt and pepper and then with a microplane, shave over some lime zest. The sourness of the lime against t sweetness of the yabbie tails is AMAZING. Enjoy.