Sunday, 4 March 2007

The Devil In Disguise

Have you ever been asked what your final meal would be, such as if you were about to take your place on the electric chair? Bizarre conversation I know, but I have been asked and it throws up all sorts of dilemmas. If you ask yourself that question, I swear you will take it seriously and give yourself a bit of a headache.

My choice of meal never changes I have to say. I adore crabs, and my choice of final meal would be a simple boiled crab, delivered to me on a platter in it's whole boiled state with nothing more than a hammer, some fresh wholemeal bread, butter and a pot of homemade mustard mayonnaise. My meal of champions and kings, simplicity on a plate, everything I preach about that is good about simple fresh produce in which the ingredients all speak for themselves. I would die a very happy man.

Crab is such a sweet tasting meat and it is essential that it is fresh. Unless you have huge trust in your fishmonger, it is always best to just learn how to prepare your own pincer waving specimen from scratch rather than buying a prepared crab. First of all, you know how fresh it is, especially if one of it's nippers catches you as has happened to me several times. In my opinion, there is nothing that can compare to that taste of a freshly boiled crab, it's flavour really peaks as soon as it is cool enough to eat it. Leave it for too long and that unique taste of the sea disappears. Crabs are plentiful, they are generally caught humanely and they are cheap. At my local fishmongers, Latimers in Whitburn, they fly out the door as fast as they are brought in fresh from the trawlers. And that makes my heart sing as it proves that people are enjoying them as much as me.

If I still can't convince you to wolf back a plain old crab in all of it's glorious sea sweetness, a good way of preparing fresh crab meat for the whole family to enjoy is in a Devilled Crab Tart. The spices synonymous with that ancient food technique of Deviling complements the crab perfectly, in the same way that the mustard mayonnaise works with plain crab meat. You will need the meat of two crabs, cocks or hens, and if you can't face the pleasure of picking crab meat ever so patiently from every crevice then you will just have to trust your monger and buy it pre-prepared. Serve this with a simple salad and boiled potatoes and of course, brown bread and butter. It is a fantastic Sunday tea time delight, another British classic and one to be celebrated.

Devilled Crab Tart
Feeds 6-8 people

1 quantity of shortcrust pastry
Meat from two freshly boiled crabs
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks, reserving the whites
Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and English mustard powder
1 tbs Worcester sauce
250ml double cream
100g strong cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper


1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, GM6. Butter and line a 22cm tart tin and line it with shortcrust pastry.
2 - Put in a sheet of baking paper and fill the tart with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, remove the beans and paper, prick with a fork several times and bake for a further 5 minutes.
3 - In a large bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks with the spices and Worcester sauce. Thoroughly mix in the crab meat, cream and cheeses and season.
4 - Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and fold gently into the mixture. Pour into the pastry case and bake on the middle shelf for 40-45 minutes. Keep checking to ensure that tart is not 'catching' and if so, lower the heat slightly and cover with baking paper.
5 - Leave to rest until warm enough to cut into wedges.

2 comments:

Andy hall said...

it's a pity I am allergic to Sea Food! Over here all people eat are Crabs, Crab pate, crab balls, crab salads, crab with crab, crab crab crab with more crab!

I saw you on the Master Chef Web clips I was lovin it mate! I hope you go further! Some one in our brood needs to get famous! I had my chance and now the only thin g I can think of to get known is to Rob the local Tesco's or something? Good luck and let me know how you did I will keep looking on line but that's all I can do from here!

Hope Helen and Cerys are well mate.

Love alaways-

Andy XXX.

Nicola said...

David, I've just discovered your blog and wanted to let you know that I love your take on cooking, seasonality and local ingredients - and of course your emphasis on keeping good British dishes and traditions alive. Wonderful stuff, thank you.