Martinique Matoutou Crabs

“During Easter, crab (Matoutou) is king and makes the centrepiece of Easter Monday meals. They are hunted during the season, which starts a month before Easter, trapped in a zatrap (handcrafted wooden trap), then fed fruit (sugar cane, coconut, melon) and other secret family ingredients to cleanse and to flavour their flesh. ‘Matoutou’ also refers to the preparation when the rice is cooked with the crab, like a risotto in a way. I prefer to cook rice and matoutou separately.”  – Prisca Morjon, Ma Cuisine Creole

For the Marinade:

1½ Tbsp. ginger peeled and grated

4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated

1 fresh habanero chili, sliced and pounded to a paste

4 Tbsp. chopped chives

2 fresh bay leaves, torn

juice of 2 limes

Salt and pepper

 

For the Crabs:

1.5 kg (a little over 3 pounds land crabs, cleaned (or Madagascar crabs )

1 Tbsp. graines à roussir (a mixture of whole cumin, fenugreek & mustard seeds)


1 lime

4 Tbsp. oil

1 onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)


1 bouquet garni (chives, parsley, fresh thyme)

3 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. fresh colombo paste

1 Tbsp. tomato paste 

6 whole cloves, crushed or bruised

1/2 red sweet pepper, chopped

1/2 zuchinni, sliced into rounds

1 fresh tomato, finely chopped  (about 3/4 cup)

2 cups water

1 scotch bonnet pepper

2 bay or allspice leaves, coarsely crushed or torn

Make the marinade: mix all ingredients together and set aside.

Make the crabs: remove shells and claws (sharp ends of the legs) of the crabs. Clean crabs thoroughly with lemon/lime and water. Keep the fat.

Add crabs to a bowl, pour marinade over them, toss to mix and let marinate 2 hours minimum but preferably overnight.

When ready to cook the crab, remove it from the refrigerator and bring it up to room temperature.

Add the ‘graines à roussir’ to a dry frying pan and roast at low heat until fragrant. Add 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan and raise the heat. Add onions, bouquet garni and garlic. Add salt to taste and let cook until golden and tender.

Add the colombo paste, tomato paste, crushed cloves, pepper, zucchini and tomatoes. Stir everything together with a little water (about 15 ml/1 tablespoon), reduce heat and let cook until everything is softened and fragrant (about 5 minutes).

Add crab pieces, shaking off excess marinade. Mix them well with the aromatic paste without breaking them. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover, add only half of the reserved marinade and 2 cups water.

Add the whole scotch bonnet pepper, allspice/bay leaves coarsely crushed. Simmer 25 minutes, covered. If you would like to cook rice into the dish, add it here.

Remove lid, taste for salt and pepper, add to taste if necessary. Simmer another 10 minutes or until the sauce reduces.

Serve with rice Creole as is the tradition. Bon appétit!

 This recipe was published in the June 2015 edition of Cooking Sense Magazine

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