Scott Petersen is a bit of an expert on yabbies. Among other things.
Having grown up on a property near Goodooga in far-western NSW, Scott has been catching and cooking yabbies for most of his life. And while Tim and I are big fans of these freshwater fellers, have never had any luck in the catch and keep department. So when the Petersen clan slip they were heading out our way to check a few traps, we gladly tagged along.
Scott met us at the dam with his three gorgeous kids Ava, Gus and Jock, and we all took it in turns to pull in a trap each before heading home with an esky full of yabbies and a few pointers on what to do next.
Yabbies according to Scott...
- Finding a dam full of yabbies is mostly trial and error but if you see a patterns of holes (about fist size) in the dam banks that's always a good sign Yabbies bury themselves in the mud during winter and often leave little 'caves' behind once the water level drops during summer. Also, they seem to prefer muddy dams rather than clear, spring-fed ones
- The best bait is a piece of meat. Yabbies are actually vegetarians but don't like meat in their water system so go for the meat only to drag it away
- Put your traps out in the morning and leave them for up to 24 hours before bringing them in.
- Once you've pulled in your traps, put yabbies in an esky and get them straight home
- Rinse and leave them in a bucket of rain or tap water for a few hours to 'purge'
- It's much more humane to freeze the yabbies for a few hours before cooking so please do that, then bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and chuck them in straight from the freezer
- Cooking time depends on the size of the yabby, the larger ones won't turn pink like prawns generally do but will colour up a little, give them about 10 minutes. Smaller yabbies will change colour and that's when you know when they're done
- Before peeling, grab the middle 'fin' at the end of their tail, pinch it and twist left, then right and pull slowly, this will devein them in one hit.
- Scott reckons they're best eaten plain, with some salt, pepper, lemon and a few wedges of buttered bread. Others say a big platter of yabbies with aioli is the go and I agree with both
- Gary Mehigan's roasted yabby tails with bearnaise and pickled cucumber looks amazing but quite a lot of work
- This salad of yabbies, walnuts and pears would be beautiful too
- They are also pretty delicious tossed through a fresh, light salad dressed with lime and chilli (recipe below).
Yabbie, lime and chilli salad with puffed riceThe dressing recipe given below belongs to chef Martin Boetz. He served it over a venison carpaccio at our Farm Kitchen last November and we have since taken to doing the same, and often. Australian limes are big, juicy and gladly affordable right now so please give this a try soon.
8 yabbie tails, cooked and peeled (4 per person is ample)
1 handful of puffed rice*
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
1 telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup vermicelli noodles, cooked
For the dressing
100ml lime juice
50ml fish sauce
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
For the dressing, mix all ingredients and taste for balance. For the salad, gently toss all ingredients together, dress then serve immediately.
*The puffed rice comes via one of our favourite chefs (and friends), Martin Boetz, he used it on the aforementioned venison carpacciolast year and it added great texture to the dish. I think it does the same here. So if you'd like to try it yourself, just soak one cup of glutinous rice overnight (or minimum six hours), thean steam for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. Spread rice onto a tray and leave for about half an hour before deep frying in little clusters. The trick to this part, I have learnt (through my mistakes), is to really make sure the vegetable oil is hot enough before frying the rice and to only leave it in for a few seconds, you'll see it puff up almost straight away.