Here is my basic recipe for a classic summer crab boil that is especially fun to host as a small dinner party – al fresco if weather permits. The crab boil is more a method than a recipe; the fun of it is in the preparation and the laidback eating ritual is what makes it especially delicious. We like to invite a few friends or neighbours over for Sunday lunch and serve up the boil under the horse chestnut trees with ice-cold craft cider, elderflower or apple blossom cordial on the side.






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  • new potatoes (2–3 per person depending on their size, cut into 1 cm slices, or whole if small)

  • crab boil seasoning (DIY a large sachet filled with mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seeds and allspice)

  • sea salt, to taste 
  • smoked spicy sausage (1-2 per person)

  • live brown Kerry crabs or any other crabs (3–4 small or 1-2 large crabs per person)

  • sweetcorn (1 cob per person, cut into halves)

  • newspapers or brown paper, for covering your table

  • plenty of melted butter, for dipping 
  • little forks, claw crackers or hammers, for getting at the crab meat

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Put the potatoes in an oversized pot; they should cover the bottom. Cover them with water by about 5 cm. Add the crab boil seasonings and a few generous pinches of sea salt.

Char or sear the sausages to seal in the flavour.
Place the sausages, crabs and corn in the pot and cover.

Put the pot over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat
to medium-high. Cook for another 12–18 minutes or until the crabs are cooked

Hold the lid of the pot ajar and dump the water, keeping the food in the pot. Pour the pot onto the centre of a table covered with paper. Make sure plenty of melted butter is available and a couple bottles of chilled
pinot blanc, rosé wine, sangria or crisp cold cider, as well as little forks for getting at the crab meat. FEAST!


Recipe from Farmette by Imen McDonnell, with photographs by Imen McDonnell.

Read our interview with Imen McDonnell and view more recipes by her.