- 2 leek
Like garlic and onion, leeks are a member of the allium family, but have their own distinct…
- 2 carrot
The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root…
- 1 onion
Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…
- 1 celery stick
A collection of long, thick, juicy stalks around a central, tender heart, celery ranges in…
- 1 small fennel bulb
Like Marmite, fennel is something that you either love or hate - its strong aniseed flavour…
- 1 garlic head, halved
Part of the lily, or alium, family, of which onions are also a member, garlic is one of the most…
- large sprig each basil, thyme, tarragon and parsley
Most closely associated with Mediterranean cooking but also very prevalent in Asian food, the…
- 20g rock salt
- 1 lemon, sliced
Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…
- 2ml white wine vinegar
- 2 star anise
Star anise is one of the central spices in Chinese cooking. It has a strong anise flavour, with…
- 300ml dry white wine
- 1 whole fresh crab
A crustacean that has its skeleton on the outside protecting a soft, flavoursome flesh. There…
Start by making a flavoured stock called a court bouillon. Roughly chop the leeks, carrots, onion, celery stick and fennel bulb. Put in a large saucepan or stockpot with the garlic, and herbs.
Add the rock salt, sliced lemon, white wine vinegar, star anise and wine. Add 3 litres water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. Cool and strain the liquid into a jug, discarding the vegetables.
Return the liquid to the pot and bring back to the boil. Lower in the crab and simmer for 12 mins per kg, then leave to cool in the pot until cold.
To prepare the crab, lay the crab on its back and twist off the front black-tipped claws. These contain most of the white meat. Put the crab on its back with the eyes towards you and, using both hands, push up the six legs. Press your two thumbs either side of the eyes and push away the ‘purse’ (that is the central body part).
On the underside you will see a circle of grey feathery gills called dead men’s fingers. It is crucial to pull these off and discard. They should not be eaten. Then, using a heavy knife, cut the round purse into four. This exposes the white meat, which can be picked out.
Pull off the knuckles from the claws and pick out the meat with a skewer or small, sharp knife. Place the large claws on a worktop and cover with a clean towel. Smash down with the back of a heavy knife or mallet until the shell cracks. As an alternative method, placing a wooden board on top of the crab, then hitting the board with a large hammer, also works well. Peel off the cracked shell to extract the meat inside. There is a thin blade bone in the centre, which should be discarded – be careful, it is sharp. You can also push the meat out using your thumbs and fingers, checking at the same time for any stray bits of shell.
Pull off the 6 legs. Extracting meat from the legs is fiddly, so unless you really need the meat, save them for a bisque.
To check that there is no shell left in the white crabmeat, sprinkle the crab over a metal tray – you will be able to hear if any shell is left in.
Using a teaspoon, scrape out the brown meat inside the main body shell, both soft and hard. Place in a sieve and rub through into a bowl using the back of a wooden spoon.
Summer is the time for excellent British crabs. You can buy ready-picked crabmeat packed into oval shells, but the white and brown crabmeat is sold layered together, with the brown meat mixed with some breadcrumbs. But it’s better to buy them fresh and in the shell for the best flavour and texture. If you pick out your own meat, then you also get to use the shell and claws for a bisque.
Crabs are best cooked immediately after killing, so ask the fishmonger to kill the crab, then take it home and cook as soon as possible.
Allow about 600g weight of crab (in shell) per person, so a 1.2kg crab will be enough for 2-4 people depending on the recipe.
A 1.2kg crab yields about 250g white meat and 120g brown meat. White meat is found mainly in the large claws and the cavities of the ‘purse’ or carapace in the centre of the crab. You will need a metal sharp pick or stout metal skewer for the white meat. Brown meat is great for sandwiches, quiche fillings and soup.