Skull Gang Foraging Club: Crawfish
Every week the Skull Gang Foraging Club go on a loose adventure in the pursuit of culinary satisfaction, passing on everything from how to pick mushrooms, milking goats for their cheese, pagan apple blessing and the odd recipe. This week Sam goes fishing.
The sun glistened on the rainbow oil-haze, thick by the moored narrow boats. A dead cat, or dog, or badger floated in the rubbish collecting under the bridge. Tired water birds used it as a resting point. Finding a body of water in London that anyone would be willing to eat something out of was going to be hard. But that was the mission we had set ourselves. We were after crawfish.
Crawfish are really just freshwater crayfish, but because the southern states of America have problems with speaking they became crawfish, or crawdads. American crawfish (Signal Crayfish) were introduced into Europe to bolster the dwindling numbers of native crays, and ensure food for the Scandinavian fishing industry. The native population had been suffering from crayfish plague. The American version was much less susceptible. Unfortunately they also all carry the plague. Now there are hardly any native crayfish, and the crawfish are fucking everywhere.
It is illegal to trap any crawfish without a licence. I would like to give you a reason why it was ok for us, but I don’t have one. However, if we were to accidentally end up with a bathtub full of crawfish, the only humane thing to do would be to kill them quickly in some boiling water. Along with a few peppers, bay leaves, and onions.
Crawfish are the Hoovers of the freshwater ecosystem. They pretty much eat anything. We didn’t want that to be dead bodies, shit, and industrial chemicals, so we went a bit further afield. Well, not that far. We found a stream flowing clear and fast just below Epping Forest. It was still full of trash, but at least we could see the bottom. The ducks looked happy. There was so much duck sex going on. Surely only healthy ducks would be having sex right?
The trap we were going to accidently drop into this spring of eternal youth was made from two wastepaper baskets, those mesh ones you can get in any pound store, a packet of zip ties, and an empty 2-litre coke bottle. We cut the bottom out of the coke bottle, then a coke bottle sized hole from the base of one bin. We zip-tied the coke bottle to the bin, narrow end facing inwards. This would be the entrance. Hopefully this would channel the crawfish into our trap, but make it hard/impossible for them to find their way out again.
For the bait we used chicken skin and par-boiled potatoes. Apparently they love par-boiled potatoes. I’m not sure why, or how,anyone discovered this but they do. We put the spuds and the skin in a muslin bag, and then tied it to the top of one bin. To close the trap we zip-tied the tops of both bins together, and tied a string to them so we could retrieve it without getting wet. And that was it.
We decided to drop it under a bridge. Aquatic animals love bridges, and it would hide the pot from view. The bridge was fairly isolated, but uncomfortably close to a gypsy camp. We found a stash of unused anti-psychotic meds. Crawfish are nocturnal, so we had left it to late afternoon, and the sun was fast disappearing. There was only the orange glow of gypsy fires, and a creepy noise in the bush. Shit was getting sinister, and we were getting nervous. I almost fell in.
We checked it the next day. Someone had stolen our trap. Pricks. If they hadn’t, this is what I would have done.
Chop and sauté a large onion, a couple of hot peppers, and a few stalks of celery.
Add two diced tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the crawfish, just enough water to cover them, and a bay leaf.
Throw in a good pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper.
Bring the whole lot to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a good hour.
While simmering, cook a couple of cups of rice.
Add rice and some chopped parsley, then let is stand for half an hour to let the rice absorb the flavours.