Crab Salad with Semi-dried Tomatoes and Sugar-cured Lemon
Don’t you just love a good traditional British summer?! We have so far had a pretty rubbish start to the summer; the central heating still comes on during some of the cold June evenings. It is quite depressing to think we are heading for the ‘height’ of summer when the longest day and shortest night will come and go and I am still wearing my winter clobber!
Anyhow, enough said of the weather because the British natural larder is a good indication that it’s summer. The asparagus season is nearing an end, but peas, broad beans and tomatoes are all in season, not forgetting too about the fabulous sweet crab from the Norfolk coast. We live by the coast and not far from Cromer where the world-famous Cromer crab comes from. Well technically, it’s nearly seventy miles from us, but in this side of the country distance does not really matter, especially if you need to go that extra mile for good food. Having said that though, Suffolk also has a wonderful array of top class British seasonal ingredients on offer.
I like Cromer crabs because the ratio of white meat to brown is considerably more. I prefer the white meat as personally I’m not fond of the pâté-like texture of brown crab meat – it’s good to cook with but in a salad like this one the flaked fresh white meat is best.
This dish is easy to prepare and it’s fresh and perfect for a starter or a light lunch served with a glass of chilled British sparkling wine. I would class it as a dish fit for a king. The combination of fresh garden peas, cucumber and tomatoes, all with their own natural sweetness, complements the sweet taste of the fresh crab.
Serves 4 as a starter or light lunch
For the crab salad
- 1 fresh crab (600–800g total weight)
- 1 stick celery, cut into 3 shorter lengths
- ½ leek, washed and cut into 3 shorter lengths
- ½ onion, cut into 4 wedges
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 star anise
- 1 tablespoon mascarpone
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives and coriander)
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the sugar-cured lemon and cucumber
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon mild English mustard
- 1 teaspoon Aspall’s organic cyder vinegar
- 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons icing sugar
- ½ cucumber
- 12 asparagus spears, trimmed
- 120g fresh garden peas (shelled weight)
- 120g fresh broad beans (shelled weight)
- a large handful of fresh pea shoots
- 12 Semi-dried Cherry Tomato Halves (previously prepared)
- ½ teaspoon ground sumac
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the crab salad, first cook the crab. Put the celery, leek, onion, bay leaves and star anise in a large saucepan, add plenty of cold water, then cover and bring to the boil. Add the crab, then cover and boil for 15–20 minutes (depending on its size) or until the crab is cooked (it should have turned a pinkie-brown colour). Remove the pan from the heat and leave the crab to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan and discard the cooking liquid.
Remove the crab legs and claws and crack them open, then remove the white meat and put it into a bowl. Remove the brown meat and keep it for another recipe (once cool, store it in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 3 days). Place the white meat in a covered container and cool it rapidly in the fridge. (Keep the shells for making bisque.)
For the sugar-cured lemon and cucumber, first prepare the vinaigrette. Put the rapeseed oil, mustard, cyder vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together until well mixed. Set aside until needed.
Next, prepare the sugar-cured lemon and cucumber. Remove the peel from the remaining lemon, then segment the flesh (remove the pith and thin membrane from all the segments) and place the segments in a small bowl. Sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of the icing sugar, then cover and leave at room temperature for 10 minutes. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, remove and discard the seeds, then cut 50g of the cucumber into very small (2mm) dice and set aside for the crab salad. Cut the rest of the cucumber into 5mm dice and place in a bowl, then season with the remaining icing sugar and salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of the prepared vinaigrette and toss to mix, then set aside for 10 minutes.
Cook the asparagus in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute, then add the peas and broad beans and cook for a further 2–3 minutes or until just tender or al dente. Drain, then refresh in iced water and drain again. Pop the tender, bright green broad beans out of their outer grey skins by squeezing gently. Discard the outer grey skins and reserve the inner bright green beans.
To finish the crab salad, season the chilled white crab meat with salt and pepper, then add the very finely diced cucumber, the mascarpone, herbs, spring onion and lemon zest and juice. Mix well and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Divide the crab salad between 4 serving plates. In a bowl, toss the asparagus spears, peas, broad beans, pea shoots and semi-dried tomatoes together in a generous helping of the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange the vegetable salad around the crab salad and then divide the sugar-cured lemon segments and cucumber between the 4 plates. Sprinkle a pinch of sumac over each serving and serve immediately with plenty of warm fresh brown bread and butter.