A while back when I first arrived here I worked in Woodbridge, right on the waters of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, 50 mins south of Hobart. Out the front of the restaurant, across the expansive verdant lawns was a pier where fishing vessels would occasionally unload their catch of mainly Southern Rock Lobsters. Whilst the cargo was hauled into an idling van & the deckhands were dispatched to purchase several slabs of Draught cans, I got to go over these vessels & inspect the by-catch, usually King Crab & octopus.
Now every purchase of seafood in Tasmania must be accompanied by the required paperwork & the police are vigilant in ensuring that this is practice is observed at all times.
It is quite difficult these days to buy directly off the boat because of all the friggin’ paperwork & for all the complications many fishermen understandably don’t bother anymore. It’s a shame & kinda ironic that one can’t readily get your hands on local seafood anymore, a subject I have posted about on numerous occasions.
However I know that a few cans here & there, can present a compelling argument for the fisherman to sell directly to me at times, with all the documentation of course! There is something very exciting about standing on a bobbing boat, the sea breeze ruffling your chef’s garb, jabbing your finger toward the item that will soon be on someone’s plate that day, in this case a regal King Crab, just shy of 10kgs! This particular day I had that crab at 10.30 & had served my first portion at 12.15.
Working with such magnificent & fresh produce compels you not to ‘faff around’ with it too much. It doesn’t need kitchen trickery, restaurant slight of hand or menu gilding the lily, to let it shine.
I simply cooked the crab, picked over the meat & served it modestly with a roasted purple garlic aioli, some warm sourdough & lemon. It sold out & I was elated. Thank goodness that day we had customers who recognised & valued this particularly unique taste of the region, I hope they remember it as vividly as I do.
I could close my eyes right now & still taste those flavours, catapulting me right back to that rocking boat, the briny smell of the sea & that blustery day. A day where that dish imprinted me with a strong sense of place & time & has informed my thoughts on food & the way I cook ever since.