Crayfish with dill

Kräftor med dill

A large plate of crayfish with dill crowns

August kräftskivor (crayfish parties) are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and appeal to people of all ages. The parties have been held in Sweden since the 1800s, but in the 1900s a plague almost completely wiped out the crayfish population. As a result Swedish crayfish are now rare and very expensive, so most Swedes pop down to their local supermarket and pick up a few boxes of imported ready-cooked frozen crayfish. If you are lucky enough to be able to cook fresh crayfish, this is how you do it. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for home cooked crayfish


Dill crowns growing in a garden

• In the UK it is hard to buy dill crowns (flower heads), so it is best to grow your own! Sow a few seeds in March or April and you should have crowns by July!
• If you can't find dill crowns, use large sprigs of dill instead.
• Crayfish are pretty simple creatures and so do not have anything you could really call a brain. However, if you are a bit squeamish you may prefer to put them to sleep before you cook them. If not, skip step 1!
• Swedes would probably allow about 0.5 kg (1 lb) of crayfish per person, but I find that about 300 g (12 oz) is about right for most Brits. (I always provide an alternative as some people might not want any!)


2 kg (4½ lb) live crayfish
1   large bunch of dill including crowns (flower heads)
1   onion, finely chopped
330 ml (12 fl oz) dark beer, porter or stout
1 tsp   anise (aniseed)
3 litres (5 pints) water
100 g (7 tbsp) salt
2 tsp   sugar


1. Divide the crayfish between four large plastic freezer bags, putting about 0.5k (1 lb) in each bag. Seal and pop the bags in the freezer for 2 hours to put the crayfish to sleep.

2. Set aside some of the best looking dill crowns to use as a garnish. Put the rest in a large bucket, large enough to take all the crayfish, and add the chopped onion, beer and anise.

3. Put the water, salt and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil.

4. Remove a bag of crayfish (0.5 kg/1 lb) from the freezer and immediately drop the crayfish into the boiling water. Cover the pan, return to the boil and cook for about 8 minutes, until the crayfish turn a bright orange/red colour. Remove the crayfish from the water with a slotted spoon and place in the bucket with the dill crowns and beer.

5. Repeat step 4 with the remaining crayfish until they are all cooked.

A large pot of crayfish cooling
Photo: Tanja Svensson

6. When you have finished cooking the crayfish, carefully pour the hot cooking liquid into the bucket and allow to cool.

7. When cold, transfer the crayfish, dill crowns and all the marinating liquid to containers to fit in your fridge or somewhere cold. Leave the crayfish in the fridge overnight.

8. When you are ready to serve the crayfish, remove them from the marinade, drain and stack them on serving plates. Garnish with the reserved dill crowns.


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