I adore crabs, and for me, they are superior in flavour to a lobster. Their meat is sweet and succulent and incredibly versatile to a number of dishes. Quite why it does not achieve the same culinary praise as a lobster is beyond me.
Pound for pound they are also more economical, with the average meat packed hen crab costing little more than £3. With large numbers of brown crab surrounding the United Kingdom and Ireland, and despite the much highlighted problem of over-fishing in our waters, the brown crab remains a sustainable choice of shellfish.
It is commonly perceived that preparing a whole crab is a messy and time consuming business. If you know a good trustworthy and reputable fishmonger, the task of dismantling a crab can usually be escaped with a pre-prepared dressed crab or simply a tub with both the white and brown meat in. Never buy a whole dead crab unless you know how long it has been dead. But there is something so satisfying about bringing a live crab home and going about the business of boiling them and then taking them apart.
It has become quite ritualistic for me to come home with a couple of crabs fighting in a bag before boiling them in a huge pot of sea salty water and allowing them to cool, before ripping them apart and spending a bit of time with a metal skewer retrieving each morsel of juicy white flesh from the body. This might sound a bit macabre, but it is almost as pleasurable an experience as the actual eating. A fresh crab needs nothing more than a couple of slices of brown bread and a decent home made mustard or garlic mayonnaise to make for a classy yet un-pretentious dinner.
Aside from the shell, gills and stomach sac, every part of the crab is edible and both the brown and white meat taste sensational in very different ways. The white meat is succulent, clean and meaty and is often the preferred choice for many people. But the distinctively stronger brown meat should never be missed. It may not look too pretty but once eaten, you will see why it is considered a delicacy in many countries.
Cheap and plentiful, delicious and fun to prepare, the crab should be the number one choice of shellfish to eat. Here is a recipe which I’ve devised that celebrates our fantastic brown crab.
Crab, Cream and Whisky Soup with Crab and Chive Toasts
2 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
150ml double cream
500ml vegetable or fish stock
300g crab meat, brown and white
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 – Heat up the oil in a large pan then add the bacon and onion. Cook until soft and slightly coloured, approximately 5 minutes.
2 – Add the potato and carrot and heat through for 1 minute. Pour in the milk, cream and stock and bring gently to the boil. Cover, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potato and carrot are soft.
3 – Add the crab meat reserving a little of the white meat. Stir through then taste for seasoning.
4 – Pour into bowls and place some of the reserved white crab meat on top. Sprinkle with chives then with your thumb over the whisky bottle, drizzle a few drops over the soup.
Crab and Chive Toasts
4 slices of white or brown bread, toasted
1 egg white
1 tbsp corn flour
2 tbsp crab meat, white and brown
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil
1 – Cut the crusts off the toasted bread then cut into triangles.
2 – Mix all of the ingredients except for the oil together in a bowl. Spread onto one side of the toasts.
3 – Heat up some oil in a frying pan then place the toasts mixture side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and crisp.
4 – Remove and place onto kitchen paper