Char-grilled crayfish with fennel purée recipe

Crayfish is an impressive dish that’s easy to prepare. Try Port Douglas chef Aron Michielli’s recipe and wow the crowds at your next dinner party.

Serves: 2 people
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes



2 medium size crayfish tails, around 250 to 350 grams each
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Fennel purée

1 fennel bulb
2 golden shallots
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup vegetable stock

Panzanella salad

6 asparagus spears
1 punnet assorted heirloom or cherry tomatoes
1 tbs capers
1 golden shallot (or ¼ of a small red onion)
6-8 leaves fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Cherry vinegar
Salt and pepper


Two slices of day-old bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Chilli, to taste
1 clove of garlic


  1. Start by preparing the crayfish. With scissors, remove the bottom cartilage from the tail and then remove the meat from the shell.
  2. Cut meat in half lengthwise. Marinate in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, and rest for 15-30 minutes.
  3. If you wish to use the shell as a garnish, boil it for 30 seconds until it turns red and set aside.
  4. To make the fennel purée, thinly slice the fennel, shallots and garlic. Keep the fennel “beard” for garnishing. In a hot pan, heat some olive oil and cook the garlic and shallots until nice and golden.
  5. Add fennel, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 1 minute on low heat. Add vegetable stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Place the mixture in a food blender and blitz until smooth. For an extra-smooth texture, pass through a fine mesh sieve.
  7. Move on to making the panzanella salad. Prepare asparagus by removing about a third of the stalk. Blanch in hot salted water for about 1 minute.
  8. Cut up the tomatoes in different shapes to provide an interesting texture (e.g. cubes, slices and wedges).
  9. Combine tomatoes with asparagus, capers, finely julienned shallots and basil. Season to taste with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  10. Prepare the croutons by cutting the bread in 1x1cm squares. In a fry pan with olive oil, crisp up the bread with some chilli and garlic. Add croutons to the salad and toss.
  11. To serve, cook the crayfish pieces for about 1 minute per side. Each piece should have 3 sides.
  12. Place the fennel purée on the plate. Compose the salad on top, ensuring all elements can be seen. Finish with the asparagus spears, the crayfish pieces and decorate with the fennel beard.

Aron Michielli’s signature recipe, Port Douglas

About the chef – Aron Michielli

For Nautilus Restaurant in Port Douglas, merging alfresco dining with the tropics has delivered a completely unique experience.

With no indoor seating area, guests are encouraged to embrace the weather – whether that means sunshine, heat or humidity!

It’s one of several ways the Nautilus team takes advantage of the local area to create unforgettable food.

“We have high-quality seafood here in Port Douglas, and crayfish offers an elegant opulence,” says restaurant manager Aron. “The panzanella salad which accompanies this dish is also close to my heart.”

Aron’s top cooking tip is to ensure that the crayfish is cooked on a very, very hot grill. “The most important thing is to get a nice caramelisation on the meat. This really creates a contrast between the sweetness of the crayfish meat and the char-grill,” he says.

“Finish the dish off with a beautiful fennel purée – it will give the food freshness and bring all the elements together.”

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