You are bound to catch these sooner or later in the Eastern Solent area, and if they are big enough they are superb eating. Here is how to do it. Firstly, catch one (use a landing net as they may drop as soon as they break the surface. If it is large enough (minimum 130mm from between the eyes to the back of the carapace for males), keep it cool and out of water. As soon as you can, cook it. First, scrub it with a vegetable brush to remove the worst of the muck that collects on them, then kill it with a spike pushed through the centre of the underside and wiggled. On males, go in at the end of the pointed flap. It will go limp. Put it in a big pot of boiling water with a handful of salt added, and boil for 25 minutes. Take it out and plunge in cold water, then stand it on end to drain. There will be plenty of gunge floating about, just wash this off, it looks a bit horrid but it is OK. Cool it as fast as you can, and keep it in the fridge – eat within a couple of days.

To “pick” a spider crap, pull off all the legs and claws, break each segment with a hammer or rolling pin, and pull the white meat out. To get at the white body meat, prise off the shell and peel off and remove the feathery gills that are all around the body. Wash your hands after, these can harbour nasties. Then get to work on the leg sockets, that is where there is a load of white meat. There is some edible gooey brown meat around the shell and in the head if you fancy it. Getting at the socket meat is fiddly but worth it. Each leg socket has a thin shell around it, so you have to cut or pick this open and flick the meat out – it is best to use an old bent skewer and flick the meat into a bowl.

All this will take ages, and you will scoff what you have prepared in a minute or two. Be careful though, if the cat gets there first and scoffs it, you will probably cry. Don’t waste the shells – keep them for crab stock.

Here’s a recipe for crab pasta, and follow the link at the bottom to make soup with the shells.

Crab Pasta in a Hurry

crab pasta recipe

For two people you will need:

  • Crab meat (from your spider crab above or a tin of crab meat will do)
  • I red chilli
  • 200 grams spaghetti
  • 100 grams frozen peas
  • 1 lemon
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 3 tablespoons creme fraiche

So easy you can do this blindfolded. Cook your pasta, and half way through the cooking time add the peas.

Remove the seeds from the chilli and chop finely. (Tip – use those disposable latex gloves or put your hands in a plastic bag. If you handle chilli juice then touch your eyes or willy it will burn like crazy, even hours later. ) Grate the zest of half the lemon. Chop the parsley.

Drain the cooked pasta and keep some of the water. Mix in the creme fraiche, crab meat, lemon zest, chilli, parsley, salt and pepper and mix about. If it looks too sticky put some of the water back in, a splash at a time, until it looks right. Serve. Eat.

PS I mix the brown meat with an equal quantity of soft breadcrumbs, season and anoint with lemon juice then spread on a round of toast as a nice contrast to the creamy pasta

PPS Don’t throw the shells away!!! Make an amazing crab soup or bisque, recipe here on our sister site Arford Books