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Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, fennel, carrot and bay leaves with a pinch of salt and cook for 10 mins until really tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more, then stir in the tomato purée for another 1 min. Add the brown crabmeat, saffron, brandy and some pepper, stirring until the brandy has bubbled away. Add the stock and stir until smooth. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 mins or until the vegetables are soft.
Using a hand blender, blitz the soup until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve back into a clean saucepan, making sure you push through as much liquid as possible. Add the cream and simmer for another 5 mins – the soup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add a few drops of lemon juice, taste and season or add more lemon if necessary, then chill until ready to serve.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the croutons with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and some black pepper on a baking tray. Bake for 10 mins, tossing halfway through, until crisp and golden. Leave to cool, then store in a plastic container until ready to serve. The soup and croutons can be made up to 1 day ahead.
To serve, reheat the soup and divide between shallow soup bowls. Spoon a mound of white crabmeat into the centre of each bowl, then drizzle with a little oil and add a few of the reserved fennel fronds. Float a few croutons on top and serve with a little extra black pepper, if you like.