Life’s a Feast: Crayfish and saffron tagliatelle


There is something very Kiwi about catching a large feed of crays, and I would hazard a guess it will have been a main motivator for many New Zealanders getting into diving in the first place! From Milford to Dusky, from Doubtful to Stewart Island, living in the south, we are spoiled to have some of the best cray fishing spots in the country.

If I were on death row and had one last meal, crayfish would indisputably be my choice. Crayfish has a sweet delicate flesh and is considered an absolute gourmet (and rather expensive!) ingredient. I am lucky enough to have some good mates who are hunter-gatherer types and will drop off quite a number of cray tails for me to spoil myself, family and friends with.

You know who you are . . . Porky, Andy and those happy clients of my husband Toby at Roost Mortgage Brokers!

This is a simple, rather rich dish but it still allows the crayfish to shine. Enjoy!

PREP TIME: 12 mins

COOK TIME: 15 mins

SERVES: 4 people


2 crayfish tails; approx. 500-600g each

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, diced

4 tablespoons brandy

500ml cream

Good pinch saffron threads

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon lemon juice (taste and add more if need be)

400g tagliatelle (uncooked)


1.Remove the raw flesh from cray tails by bringing a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Set a bowl of icy water in your sink. Dunk your cray tails in the rapid boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds … no longer, then dunk them straight into the icy water. This will stop them cooking, and the very outside of the flesh will be just cooked a little to allow it to pull away from the shell.

2.Cut the shell all the way down the middle softer side (not the hard shell side), then peel back each side and from the top of the cray, gently pull it away from the shell right down to the tail. Cut into about 1.5cm chunks and set aside until ready to use. Keep the shell to use in your sauce.

3.Next bring a large pot to the boil for the pasta then start prep on your sauce. In a medium pan, heat the butter and oil to a medium heat and add in your garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it softens then pour in your brandy.

4.This should cook down pretty quickly, then pour in the cream, saffron and pop in the cray tail (this adds a little more flavour to the dish). Give a good pinch of salt and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the flavours infuse into the cream.

5.Next cook your pasta as per the instructions on the packet.

6.While this is cooking, tip in your cut-up crayfish to the creamy sauce and bring back up to a simmer. Before draining pasta, tip about 3 tablespoons of pasta water into the sauce too. Add in the lemon and the chives, then taste. You may need to add a little more salt or lemon.

7.Drain the pasta, drizzle with a little olive, then tip into the lobster saucepan. Thoroughly combine.

8.Divide evenly amongst four plates, ensuring the chunks of crayfish are evenly distributed. You could garnish with a little more chives and serve with a wedge of lemon.