Here are three recipes for 2 episodes of Dish of the Day – a hardware issue stopped me from posting yesterday and, ok I admit it, I was enjoying the sun too much too! About half a mile down the road from us is a shellfish merchant and he, like many other businesses, has had to spread his customer base to make up for the closure of the hospitality industry during Covid-19. Lucky us – we can have scallops, crab and lobster delivered every week. And we generally do! Today I have had a couple of crabs – or partains as they are called in much of Scotland – as well as scallops and we will enjoy them tomorrow BUT will it be as soup, a cocktail or baked with cheese? Which would you choose?
Print the recipes here.
Crab and vanilla soup
Crab is rich and sweet in flavour, all of which is heightened by the addition of a vanilla pod when making this luxurious soup. This recipe was inspired by a trip to Kerala in SW India, an area where there is abundant seafood and many pepper and coffee estates also grow vanilla.
• 2 dressed crabs, about 225-250g each
• 1 vanilla pod
• 1 potato, about 200g
• 4 spring onions
• 25g butter
• Good pinch of saffron strands
• 500ml milk
• Smoked paprika or pimenton to garnish
1. Scrape the crab meat from the shells, and place the shells in a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod with a sharp knife, scrape out all the tiny black vanilla seeds and reserve them, then add the pod to the crab shells with 500ml cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Drain the liquor and discard the shells. (Rinse the pods thoroughly, dry them and keep them in your caster sugar for cake making.)
2. Pick through the crab meat and reserve about 2 tbsp of chunky pieces for garnish. Peel and finely dice the potato. Trim and finely slice the spring onions.
3. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the spring onions and cook slowly for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add all the but the reserved crab meat to the pan with the vanilla seeds, potato, saffron and milk. Bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until the potato is cooked.
4. Cool the soup slightly, then blend it until smooth. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper then add the reserved crab meat and reheat gently until piping hot. Serve garnished with a little smoked paprika.
Devilled crab cocktail
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
This is a favourite recipe to demonstrate as it turns out well and causes a little gasp of pleasure from the audience at the neat layers of colourful ingredients. It tastes as good as it looks.
• 2 dressed crabs
• Small handful parsley
• 1 lemon
• 2 tomatoes, or 4-6 baby plum tomatoes
• 1 ripe avocado
• 2 tbsp mango chutney
• Good pinch cayenne pepper
• Worcestershire sauce
• Dry white breadcrumbs (optional)
• Fresh bread or toast to serve
1. Scoop the white and brown crab meat into separate bowls. Finely chop the parsley and mix with the white meat, finely grating the zest from the lemon into the bowl and seasoning to taste.
2. Chop the tomatoes, seeding them if large. Chop the avocado flesh and toss it in the juice from the lemon.
3. Mix the brown meat with the chutney, cayenne, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Add breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist – I use dried breadcrumbs which I always have to hand in the freezer. Does that make sense? I dry them and then freeze them!
4. Serve layered on shredded lettuce in wine glasses. Or press into well-oiled rings to shape, or into individual oiled pudding moulds in layers and invert immediately onto plates to serve with bread and butter or toast.
This is a go-to way of preparing a really quick and easy hot crab starter. It is, in all honesty, a simplified version of the cocktail above with a very light scattering of cheese – you need just enough to give a cheesy flavour without dominating the crab.
• 1 dressed crab
• 3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
• 2 tomatoes
• Half a lemon
• 3-4 anchovy fillets, optional
• 40-50g cheese – a mature Cheddar or Gruyere
1. Scoop the crab meat from the shell into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs.
2. Chop the tomatoes into about 8-10mm dice – it’s fine to leave the skin on – and add them with the seeds and any juice to the crab, along with the grated zest and the juice from the half lemon. Mix well.
3. If you like anchovy fillets, chop them finely and add them to the mix before seasoning to taste – the anchovies will affect how much salt you add. Season to taste.
4. Finely grate the cheese and add half to the crab then pile the mixture into 2 ramekin dishes or heatproof bowls. Top with the remaining cheese.
5. If the oven is on bake the gratins in there until piping hot – about 15 minutes at gas mark 5, 190C. Otherwise heat under a moderate grill for at least 10 minutes – enough time to melt the cheese on top but also ensure that the crab is very hot right the way through. Serve just as it is, perhaps with a little green garnish and some buttered toast.
• I’m buying fresh crabs and cooking them at the moment to make these recipes. That involves the time to pick them. Buying dressed crabs is convenient but more expensive.
• Always try to get handpicked crabs – machine washing of the shell results in horribly wet dark meat which is, in my opinion, the tastiest bit.
• If you are reheating crab or any shellfish you must get it really piping hot. I remember being served warm reheated mussels once. Enough said…..