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Start by making a flavoured stock called a court bouillon. Roughly chop the leeks, carrots, onion, celery stick and fennel bulb. Put in a large saucepan or stockpot with the garlic, and herbs.
Add the rock salt, sliced lemon, white wine vinegar, star anise and wine. Add 3 litres water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. Cool and strain the liquid into a jug, discarding the vegetables.
Return the liquid to the pot and bring back to the boil. Lower in the crab and simmer for 12 mins per kg, then leave to cool in the pot until cold.
To prepare the crab, lay the crab on its back and twist off the front black-tipped claws. These contain most of the white meat. Put the crab on its back with the eyes towards you and, using both hands, push up the six legs. Press your two thumbs either side of the eyes and push away the ‘purse’ (that is the central body part).
On the underside you will see a circle of grey feathery gills called dead men’s fingers. It is crucial to pull these off and discard. They should not be eaten. Then, using a heavy knife, cut the round purse into four. This exposes the white meat, which can be picked out.
Pull off the knuckles from the claws and pick out the meat with a skewer or small, sharp knife. Place the large claws on a worktop and cover with a clean towel. Smash down with the back of a heavy knife or mallet until the shell cracks. As an alternative method, placing a wooden board on top of the crab, then hitting the board with a large hammer, also works well. Peel off the cracked shell to extract the meat inside. There is a thin blade bone in the centre, which should be discarded – be careful, it is sharp. You can also push the meat out using your thumbs and fingers, checking at the same time for any stray bits of shell.
Pull off the 6 legs. Extracting meat from the legs is fiddly, so unless you really need the meat, save them for a bisque.
To check that there is no shell left in the white crabmeat, sprinkle the crab over a metal tray – you will be able to hear if any shell is left in.
Using a teaspoon, scrape out the brown meat inside the main body shell, both soft and hard. Place in a sieve and rub through into a bowl using the back of a wooden spoon.
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