Crab Beignets with Fiery Apple Chutney
The days are getting shorter and the nights longer now, with most days being cooler and some having a decidedly chilly nip to them. The central heating is on and I’m looking forward to lighting the log fire soon. Until then we use food to warm us up, and this fiery apple chutney does exactly that. Steve, our sous chef, is partial to chillies, he even grows his own, and last week he brought in a splash of his scotch bonnet chilli oil that he made at home for this creation. The oil itself is hot enough to blow your taste buds to shreds, but once cooked with the apples, vinegar, spices, lemongrass and sugar, it becomes more mellow with a lovely heat that makes the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ for these fabulous crispy crab beignets.
After making choux pastry in the Thermomix the previous week, Steve wanted to try this method for himself, and yes, it works a treat! The only difference is that the sugar is left out of the choux pastry recipe and replaced with a pinch of salt. The beauty about choux pastry is that you can make the dough up to 3 days in advance, keep it in the fridge until needed, then fold in the flavouring and hey presto!, cook and serve. You also get plenty out of one recipe, which means you can either feed a small army or make plenty for the following day. I include both the conventional method and the Thermomix method for making choux pastry. See the Cook’s Tips at the end of the recipe for the Thermomix method.
These crab beignets are delicious served either hot or cold. Served cold they will lose a bit of their crispness, but they are just as delicious.
For the fiery apple chutney
- 80g onions
- 30g (peeled weight) fresh root ginger, peeled
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemongrass stem, finely chopped
- 200g caster sugar
- 200ml white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon each black and yellow mustard seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon hot chilli oil
- 300g (prepared weight) British eating apples of your choice (such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, Discovery, Russet, etc), peeled, cored and diced
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the crab beignets
- 80g unsalted butter
- 150ml water
- a pinch of sea salt
- 120g plain flour
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 300g brown crabmeat
- 50g spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon each finely chopped fresh parsley, chervil and chives
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
First, prepare the chutney. Put the onions, ginger, garlic and lemongrass in a blender and blend to form a fine purée. Transfer the purée to a saucepan and add the sugar, white wine vinegar, mustard seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, chilli oil and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the diced apples, orange zest and juice and lemon zest and juice and bring back to a simmer, then simmer over a low heat for 20–25 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and the apples are softened.
Remove from the heat, transfer the chutney to a clean container or sterilised jar, cover and leave to cool. Once cool, keep refrigerated until needed. The chutney will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Remove and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick before serving.
Prepare the choux pastry for the crab beignets. Put the butter, water and pinch of salt in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter has melted, then bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Tip in the flour and beat to mix with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan to form a ball of dough. Remove from the heat, then gradually beat in the eggs, until the mixture becomes silky, shiny and smooth. The choux pastry is now ready to be transferred to a clean container, then covered and kept chilled until needed. The unbaked choux pastry will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
When you are ready to cook the beignets, mix the crabmeat, spring onions and chopped herbs into the choux pastry. Heat some sunflower oil in an electric deep-fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 160°C (or until a small piece of bread browns within 20 seconds in the hot oil). Once the oil is hot enough, place tablespoonfuls of the choux pastry into the hot oil and deep-fry for 5–6 minutes or until cooked, crisp and golden brown – you will need to deep-fry the beignets in three batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper, then keep warm while you cook the remainder.
Serve the crab beignets with the fiery apple chutney and some mixed salad leaves dressed with classic vinaigrette.
Serves 8 as a starter or serves 4 as a light lunch
To make the choux pastry using the Thermomix method, place the butter, water and pinch of salt in the Thermomix bowl, then set the timer for 5 minutes at 100°C on speed 1. Add the flour and blend on speed 8 for 1 minute, then remove the lid and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Secure the lid and blend the mixture on speed 3 while gradually adding the eggs, blending until all the eggs are incorporated, then increase the speed to 10 and blend for 1 minute. The choux pastry is now ready to use, so please follow the flavouring and cooking instructions given above and complete the recipe as directed.
Any leftover chutney is perfect served with cooked ham, a boiled egg and some crusty bread for a tasty snack.