Yabbies are the deilcious, indigenous fresh water crustaceans found in dams and rivers throughout Australia.
They are easy to catch and cook, but be aware, they are integral to healthy fresh water ecosystems, so it is important not to overfish them.
My dad taught me that yabbies shoud not be caught in the months ending in an er, so September, October, November and December are out for yabbying, as this is the breeding season for the yabby.
Yabbies love fresh meat, so the easiest way to catch them is by baiting an item that they can't climb out of, much like the principle of the traditional lobster trap. We used an old kettle, baited with a small handful of minced steak and left the lid section open, in our dam, a few times a year to enjoy a fantastic yabbie feast, catching enough yabbies to feed three to five people easily.
You can also catch them one by one, using a line baited with a small piece of meat.
Watch out for their pinchers. or front claws. They may be small creatures, but they are capable of giving you a decent nip.
Always throw back any tiny yabbies, They should be about 8-10 centimetres long for ideal eating. This leaves the younger ones to grow on and breed, keeping your yabbie source well stocked. Remember yabbies migrate between fresh water sources, to find the most ideal habitat. They also dig holes deep underground in times of drought, to keep themselves hydrated. They spend a good deal of time in burrows in the shallows of dams, creeks and rivers, prefering still to fast flowing water.
Cooking is pretty much the same as for prawns.
Personally, I like to humanely kill them by putting them into the freezer for about half an hour. After this prepare either your barbecue or a pot of boiling water, ready to receive your yabbies.
You can put them briefly on the barbecue in their shells. You will know when they are cooked, because they turn from brown, sometimes with a bluish tinge, to red. Do not overcook them. Shell before eating, by removing their head, then pulling off the shell from the belly, including their little legs. The flesh is in their tail. Ideally, remove the vein, that runs just below the middle top of their backs, as you would a prawn.
My preferred way of preparing them is too place them in boiling water until they turn red, shell and devien, then pop them into a garlic and white wine sauce.
To make the garlic and white wine sauce, saute a few cloves of garlic, add a good cup of white wine, a little cream and thicken with cornflour. You will need to put a desertspoon of cornflour into some water to dissolve, then add to the sauce, stir until the sauce thickens. then add the yabbie tails, just to heat them through.
They are also delicious to eat cold, especially with potato salad and lots of leafy mesclin leaves!