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Yabbies with Garlic, Chilli + Feta

Yabbies with Garlic, Chilli + Feta

by Sharnee Beard

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I remember so fondly when I was a child, frequently spending Sunday evenings yabbying with the whole family on the banks of one of our dams on the farm.  Once cleaned, the yabbies were simply boiled and put in a large dish for you to peel yourself, dip in some white vinegar and slip straight into your mouth.  It was one of life’s most simple pleasures, being able to enjoy this sweet delicacy, fresh from our backyard.

Nowadays everyone can enjoy these freshwater crustaceans all year round, thanks to the development of a wholesale yabby industry in WA, sourcing yabbies from rural and regional areas.  The wholesalers supply live yabbies in a range of sizes to selected retail fish markets in the metropolitan area, including Kailis Bros in Fremantle, Curullis Seafood Markets in Gosnells and Seafresh Innaloo.  They are sold both live and cooked, and depending on the grade, 1 kg typically results in 10 to 25 yabbies.

The following recipe, which I adapted from a recipe by Tessa Kiros made with prawns, is always a hit with a crowd of my family and friends.  It particularly suits smaller sized yabbies, as I like to serve it at the table in a big bowl brimming with the buttery garlic, chilli and feta broth for all to help themselves.  It is perfect with some sturdy bread for mopping up the juices, maybe some simply dressed greens and a glass of Semillon.  Don’t even think about peeling the yabby tales before cooking this.  The shells impart all their gorgeous flavour in the cooking process and besides, the communal peeling is part of the tradition of yabbies that I love.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 kg live yabbies
200g butter, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
400g sheep feta
Juice of 3 lemons

Method

  • To handle the live yabbies and avoid the risk of being nipped, hold them on the back of their body behind the claws. 
  • To prepare them for cooking, place them in a plastic bag in the freezer for an hour to chill. Then, press a sharp knife or skewer firmly through the middle of the head between the eyes to kill them humanely.  Alternatively, you could ask your supplier to kill them for you.
  • For this recipe, you will need to remove the body from the tail by using a pulling and twisting action at this junction.  You can use a pair of kitchen gloves to do this. 
  • Retail purchased yabbies are generally well purged, so you shouldn’t need to remove the hind gut, which runs down the tail.  If however, you have caught your own from a dam and they have only had a few hours of purging, this can easily be removed if you grip the centre section of the tail, then twist and pull.   The line should effortlessly slide out, leaving the rest of the shell and tail meat in tact.  It takes a bit of practise but once you get the hang of it, it is a breeze. 
  • Rinse the tails thoroughly, or scrub clean to remove any dirt. 
  • In a large saucepan, layer the tails with the butter, garlic, chilli and parsley, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.
  • On medium to high heat, cook the yabbies, covered, until they have started to turn orange. 
  • Squeeze over the lemon juice and crumble over the feta, stirring carefully so as not to break up the feta too much. 
  • Return the pan to a medium heat and allow it to slowly simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the tails are bright orange and the feta has melted into little clumps throughout the dish. Serve immediately with bread. 
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