Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why South Devon crab is special

My first clear memory of crab was eating crab sandwiches in a pub in Winchester with a boyfriend 30-odd years ago. I can’t remember the boyfriend but can remember the sandwiches (story of my life . . . ) and I’ve been hooked ever since.

And although I could tell good crab when I came across it I had no idea why - until this week when I went to a lunch at Mitch Tonks’ Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth organised by South Devon Tourism who are trying to promote this delicacy as an alternative to the ubiquitous cream tea.

They say - and obviously would - that the brown crabs that are fished off that part of the coast are the best in Britain but they have some basis for the claim. For a start they’re bigger. There is a minimum landing size for crabs locally which is 16cm across for males and 15cm for the females or ‘hens’ which also can’t be lifted if they’re full of eggs. They're also particularly sweet.

Crabs are in season between April and November but at their peak in the autumn when there is a higher proportion of brown meat - a rich source of Omega 3.

But best of all they’re sustainable: there’s plenty to go around or would be if 60% of it didn’t go abroad, mainly to France and Spain. It should ideally, of course, be eaten on the spot, freshly cooked which removes the need for pasteurization.

The campaign is also trying to get across - slightly less persuasively - how easy it is to pick a crab. Mitch was also on the BBC’s Countryfile this week opening a crab on a beach and cracking the claws with a large pebble but I can’t honestly see many visitors to the area doing that.

Anyway this is how we had it for lunch (above, with a gorgeous great glob of homemade mayonnaise) - and the next day at the South Sands hotel down the coast (below) which I’ll be posting about separately. I love crab in recipes like linguine but you just can’t beat it served simply. Except maybe in a sandwich . . .

I attended the lunch as a guest of South Devon Tourism.


  1. I've always been a bit scared of crab, I was really squeamish about eating fish as a child but in my thirties I'm gradually conquering my fears.

    I took a deep breath and used crab to make some fishcakes last week. They were absolutely gorgeous - really fluffy and sweet. My perception has been forever changed.

    I bet it tastes even more amazing in Devon!

  2. It really does! There's absolutely nothing to beat a crab sandwich made with really fresh crab. Except perhaps a crab quiche . . . .