Saturday 27 June 2015

Crab on toast

Summer came thundering in with her heavy hands of heat and histamine, some damage to do, These assailants of the senses rob me of both sleep and smell. For weeks now I've woken, fitful and unwelcome, my lungs fizzing, pharynx sobbing, exhausted like I've been, for hours, rolling down a well padded cliff. My nights a slow movement of rasping breath, a noise like an argument in a badgers' sett.

So yeah, I have hayfever. 

Perhaps it was this seasonal fatigue that lulled me to suggest a crab starter. Hey, I love crab: sweet, sea-flavours, achingly better than the rival suitor: cotton-wooly, faintly tasting, lobster; all claw and no bite. But I'd forgotten to check the price.

I do this - forget to think about the money - If you said I was a better cook than I am a businessman I wouldn't disagree with you. Hell, I'd hoike you aloft and toast you in the nearest tavern as a wo/man of singular acuity. When I first started serving food to strangers I offered a cheese course - I still do. But it was only after three occasions I realised I was actually paying guests to eat it. Such are the horns of my current crustaceous conundrum. Fresh white, hand picked crab meat is £55 a kilo. And that's the price I get off my fishmonger - the ever sunny(!) Pat of Green Lanes Fisheries (no website - he's not one for this modern nonsense is Pat.) For comparison, the finest, grass fed, Angus beef fillet I serve is about £40 a kilo.

So yes, I will serve crab but we will have to negotiate. Remind me would you? Please. In my rush to serve nice things, I'm bound to forget.

Gail in red, then Rob and Polly centre.
Curried butternut squash soup
Gail was to miss her niece's wedding (Holly and Rob) so was planning a pre-emptive treat at the restaurant. Crab to start, then our much lauded, lamb chump dish, finishing off with a chocolate marquise served with a cherry chocolate crumble. In between I was also trying a new amuse bouche of curried butternut squash soup and a palette cleansing orange sorbet, my own recipe - very proud of myself. I'll put a link in to the recipe just as soon as I write it... as soon as I work out what I did.

EDIT: this is it.

Orange sorbet

On the phone with Gail, I'd agreed to a rather vague 'crab salad' - there are many options and foils such as asparagus, grapefruit, ginger doings, lemony snatchings... but I soon concluded that I wanted more of a bruschetta thing - a bit of crunch. Put basically: crab on toast. Crab is a delicate beastie and it's too easy to overwhelm it with citrus and other punch packing flavours. No. Keep it simple... and British. Some tomatoes would add body and acidity to the dish to counter the crab's sweetness and the mayo's sticky but without calling too much attention to itself.

Cherry chocolate crumble with chocolate marquise, chocolate nib tuile and caramel mousse

A loaf, wot I baked
But it would have to be thin toast. A thick slice would be too carby and away  necessitate about £100's worth of crab to balance. I made a long flat loaf, half white, half wholemeal (for nutty interest) the day before and left it out. The slight staleness allowed me some very fine slicing. These were rubbed with olive oil then baked for 15 minutes in a 160°C oven.

Once cooled I spread a thin layer of home-made crab paste, a mix of butter with white and brown crab meat. This was topped with a lemon verbena mayonnaise and finally the delicacy itself: pinkish strands of crab.

The toasts were served with some heritage toms, tossed in a tomato vinegar glaze; some Greek basil and a selection of salad leaves from my garden.

Crab toasts, close up

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