The Mexican term “a la diabla” literally means “to the devil”, and there should be something with a good kick of chilli to get you there. This recipe uses the heat of the habanero chilli along with the piquant flavour of guajillo chilli to make a rich paste that goes beautifully with shellfish. The avocado leaves impart a delicate and fragrant aniseed flavour.
- 6 blue swimmer crabs, cleaned and cut into 4 pieces or 1 x 1.5 kg mud crab, cleaned and cut into 6 pieces
- 100 ml vegetable oil
- 200 ml fish stock
- 50 ml vegetable oil
- ½ white onion, minced
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 avocado leaves (see Note)
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 8 guajillo chillies, stemmed, seeded and lightly toasted
- 4 tomatillos, roasted
- 1 habanero chilli (seeds optional)
- ⅓ cup chopped coriander leaves
- 3 allspice
- 2 limes, juiced
- chopped coriander
- lime cheeks
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.
To make the chilli paste, heat a 25 cm frying pan over medium and add the vegetable oil. Add the onion and garlic. Fry gently for 3–4 minutes or until translucent. Remove and place in a blender. Wipe out the pan with paper towel.
Add the remaining chilli paste ingredients to the blender and blend for 2 minutes or until smooth.
Add another 50 ml of oil to the frying pan and place over medium heat. Add the paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from the pan and reserve.
Add 50 ml of oil to a 35 cm heavy-based saucepan or large wok. When the oil starts smoking, carefully add the crab. Toss or stir until the colour changes, then add the paste and stock. Cover with a lid. Cook for 5–7 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
Remove from the heat and arrange the crab pieces on a platter. Garnish with coriander and lime cheeks.
• Leaves from some varieties of avocado tree have a strong anise flavour, but some may have little flavour at all. If they are flavourless or unavailable, use 1 fresh bay leaf in the place of 2 avocado leaves.