Apart from having tentatively spied the Crayfish and Avocado Salad on the rack of Pret a Manger (but never quite having the gall to risk the £4.25 and lunchtime feed on it), I hadn’t had much contact with crayfish in my time. Thankfully, this gaping hole in the body of my gastronomic life-experience was rectified during my stint in Sweden this summer, and boy, was it rectified in style.
August in Sweden is Crayfish Party Season. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either, but it’s a cultural phenomenon I am hoping is going to sashay across Europe and trend in Britain, because it’s bloody good fun. If there is one thing the Swedes are known for, apart from detective novels and sleek design, it’s that they know how to throw a party.
The Swedish crayfish party is a national tradition which harks back centuries – I’m pretty sure there is a line in the poem where, in between slaying dragons and restoring kingdoms, Beowulf knocks back a shot of schnapps and pays tribute to the crayfish. Or drinks Meade and scuffles with a sea monster. Whatever, same diff.
Anyway, the essence to the party has always remained the same: you gather with friends, get very messy chowing down a lot of meaty crayfish, sing songs and sink shots on average every 3 minutes – thus eventually the meal reduces into a blurry haze of a schnapps-induced delirium, for you to only regain consciousness to a kicking headache the morning after.
Sound blissful? Well, I have put together a starter guide for all you readers, so you can all throw your own crayfish parties, and hopefully start the craze here across the pond!
Lesson #1 Stock up supplies
So you know how there is a big woop every year over the University league tables, and the Premier league in football? Well in Sweden there is a league table for crayfish (crackers, I know) – so head out early if you want the leanest, meanest little suckers that were dragged out the sea this year.*
*Note: this only really applies if you are IN Sweden, if you reside in the UK for the duration of your party, standard supermarket precautions apply [Read: M&S if you want to impress, Aldi if you want food poisoning, and Iceland if you don’t actually want cray fish meat.]
Lesson #2 Prepare
If you haven’t bought the crayfish fresh then emember to actually defrost them – then you won’t get yourself in the situation we did…
Lesson #3 Ready, Steady, Cook!
As ours were already cooked all we had to do was heat them up over the hob – and to be honest I don’t know much about cooking seafood, so if you went out and bought them fresh, and don’t know how to cook them, I will point you in the direction of google.
Lesson #4 The Trimmings
In true swedish tradition we adorned the crayfish with towering bowls of meatballs, a cheesy quiche dish and boiled potatoes. Not a sprig of rocket is to be in sight.
[Note: This meal is not for the calorie-shunning, you need the stodge otherwise the schnapps will ensure you won’t even make it to dessert]
Speaking of dessert…there isn’t any rule, you can serve whatever tickles your fancy. Here are a few desserts I came across whilst in Sweden though to give you inspiration:
Cinnamon and Cardamon buns
Chocolate brownie balls
Lesson #5 Set the Scene
Crayfish adorned paraphernalia is required, and in Sweden the shops are stocked full of merchandise. However, you may struggle to get these things in the UK, so just make sure you have napkins, party hats, shot glasses and BIBS (whilst it may clash with your glad rags, you will thank the bib later for saving your new Zara top from crayfish juice – eating is a very messy affair!)
Lesson #6 Pop some bottle tops and begin the feast!
Water isn’t allowed at the table. You may choose either beer or wine to quench your thirst, and the Schnapps of course. [Note: when I am referring to ‘Schnapps’ I do not mean the peachy stuff you drink when you are fourteen to wash down the Lamborini – this stuff is the real deal]
Understandably this means that the civilised images didn’t last for too long. Remember that schnapps-induced delirium I mentioned earlier? ….
Just remember: ensure there are enough meatballs left over to soak up the hangover the next day…
….to have included several domestically-trained Swedish men on the invite list, who will kindly cook you breakfast…
…and make sure the location you picked was near a serene pontoon to relax your aching joints from all the dancing.
Enjoy! Puss puss