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Dressed crab

Mark Hix

You can't beat freshly-cooked crab, accompanied by some good mayonnaise with brown bread and butter.

Perhaps because I was brought up by the seaside, I prefer to tackle the crab whole myself, armed with crackers, a finger bowl and a glass of white wine.

If you would rather the 'no bones and mess' approach, you can buy ready-picked white and brown meat, although it generally doesn't have quite the same taste unless your fishmonger does it for you. The brown meat can be a little dry and may need spicing up a bit – flavours of chilli or lemon can give it a welcome lift.

Preparing your crab

To get the meat out of the crab, twist the legs and claws off, then crack them open andf remove the white meat with a lobster pick or teaspoon. Now turn the main body on its back and twist off the pointed flap. Push the tip of a table knife between the main shell and the bit to which the legs were attached and twist the blade to separate the two; then push the body up and remove from the outer shell. Scoop out the brown meat in the well and put to one side.

On the other part of the body, remove the dead man's fingers (these are the feather-like, grey gills attached to the body) and discard. Split the body in half with a heavy knife and then cut each side in half again. Now you need to be patient and pick out the white meat from the little cavities in the body, again using a lobster pick or a teaspoon.

Go through the white and brown meat separately to make sure there are no residual bits of shell.

If you plan to serve the crab meat out of the shell, you should allow 100g per person as a starter or 150g per person as a main course. The amount of the brown meat in a crab can be unpredictable, so you could buy some more ready-picked to be on the safe side.