Spider crab paella

Serves 2-4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

We ordered this dish after one of our unfortunate bacalao experiences. Though it was served traditionally in a black pan, it sadly didn't use some of the best bits of the spider crab, ie. the body. I'm not sure what they did with it (maybe it went into the stock), but while I was eating it I was conjuring up a modified version in my head – and here it is. If you can't get a spider crab from your fishmonger, a normal brown crab will do.

1 live spider crab, weighing about 1.5kg
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, halved, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of saffron strands
4tbsp olive oil
500g paella rice

For the stock

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium leek, roughly chopped and washed
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
The main shell from the spider crab (see method)
2tbsp vegetable or olive oil
10 black peppercorns
2tsp tomato puree
100-120ml white wine
2 litres fish stock

Place the spider crab in a pan of well-salted water and bring it to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat, remove the crab and allow to cool. Remove the outer shell from the crab, scoop out any brown meat and reserve it and then smash up the shell with a hammer or rolling pin.

To make the stock, gently cook the onion, leek and garlic in the oil for 2-3 minutes, add the crab shell and peppercorns and continue cooking on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato purée, wine and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour, skimming every so often. Strain through a fine meshed sieve.

Remove the grey gills, or dead man's fingers, from the crab's body and discard. With a heavy chopping knife cut the body of the crab into four quarters, leaving the legs attached.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5.

In a paella pan or a cast-iron double-handled frying pan suitable for the oven, heat the oil on the stove and gently cook the onion, pepper, garlic and saffron in the olive oil, covered with a lid for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring every so often. Add the rice and stir over the heat for a minute or so. Add half the stock and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often, then add most of the rest of the stock and season, bring to the boil and place the crab in the middle of the pan with the legs spread evenly around the pan.

Place in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the rice is cooked. The rice should still be quite moist, with a risotto-like consistency; if not, carefully stir in the rest of the stock.

Serve with shellfish crackers, crab picks and a finger bowl.