“Highly prized in Spain and France and often exported from Cornwall, we’re on a mission to share our love for these sustainable, tasty, locally caught crabs with you.” says the Cornish Fishmonger who sources its Cornish king crab from the north coast of Cornwall.
For many years, spider crab were overlooked by us Brits, with 85% of domestically caught spider crab getting exported, primarily to France where it’s seen as a high-value product and to Spain, where it’s a common addition to paella. Our continental cousins, whose cuisines we often covet, aren’t usually wrong about what makes a tasty ingredient.
However, with the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit acting as barriers to exports, our fishermen need us to begin our own love story with these Cornish kings. Which is why it’s so exciting that, over the past few years, domestic demand for these tasty crustaceans is starting to grow.
Cornish fishermen are so fond for us to take to them, that it was rebranded to Cornish king crab recently so that Brits would start to associate it as a homegrown product. “It can only be a good thing… It is hard to sell but if the rebranding can just get people to taste it, they will immediately realise just how good spider crab is.” says Johnny Murt, a shell fisherman operating out of Padstow.
“The time is right to tell the bigger story around British fish” says the Head of Retail at Ocean Fish, Victoria Townsend. “It’s not just the imported species like cod, haddock, tuna, bass, prawns and salmon; it’s about promoting British fish.”
Caught in pots, which have a low impact on the seabed, by a fleet of inshore shell fishermen off the Cornish coast, you can be sure that your Cornish king crab is a sustainable choice. It’s also local to our shores, which means you’re minimising food miles and reducing the carbon impact of importing fish from overseas.
Cornish fishermen are on-board with sustainability too, measuring their crab to ensure they don’t take those that have not fully matured out of the sea.
Buck Beckett, a shell fisherman from Newquay says, “I want my son to be able to keep fishing these waters, with plenty of crab and lobster still here, because we’ve looked after them” echoing an anxiety that many fishermen feel about the future of the industry. This is another reason why they work so hard to ensure shellfish stocks keep thriving.
For many of our members, the recent fine weather has coincided with the return of a bounty of full shellfish pots! 🦀 It is well & truly the season for locally abundant & sustainably caught spider crab, or Cornish king crab as it is known locally in Cornwall. pic.twitter.com/2KKLd56cti
— CFPO (@Cornishfpo) June 10, 2022
If playing to your conscience isn’t reason enough to give Cornish king crab a chance, how about the fact that more and more people are falling in love with it. “Last year we sold 1.6 tonnes of spider crab on our website. This year, we’re up to 1 tonne already, and it’s only May, so there’s a clear upward trend.” said Will Harvey, from shellfish merchant W Harvey & Sons when we spoke to him recently.
“There’s a lot more awareness of spider crab,” Will explains. “The name change to Cornish king crab is mentioned a lot and there is an increased demand in the UK retail market.”
If you’re thinking of hosting a dinner party soon, what better way to impress than incorporating Cornish king crab into a dish. It won’t break the bank either, starting at just £6.90 for a WHOLE crab from W. Harvey & Sons. They, like many other Cornish merchants, offer the handy option of pre-cooked and pre-picked deliveries, to take the faff out of the prep.
With a range of merchants offering pre-cooked crab and a few simple recipes available on our website, it’s never been easier to stay ahead of the culinary curve.
Referred to by fishermen as “a tastier version of lobster,” this one is undeniable. As Brits, we tend to lean towards the tried and tested brown crab. But take it from the experts, when it comes to taste, spider is king.
Sam Jones, a fisherman and chef at the Bay Hotel in Coverack says “If someone were to hand me either a freshly cooked spider crab or a brown crab, I’d always choose the spider! The meat is just that much sweeter!”
Here’s your chance to get creative; stir it into a creamy pasta, use it as a sandwich filling, coat it in breadcrumbs to make crab cakes, or even go all out and boil the whole crab for a luxurious-looking centrepiece on your dinner table.
Seafood Cornwall worked with chef, author and sustainable living expert, James Strawbridge to develop a range of seafood dishes including the aforementioned crab cakes and pasta, using native fish and shellfish.
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