Without a shadow of doubt, brown crab would be one of my desert island meals. I grew up surrounded by water on the Isle of Wight, and have fond memories of picking over cooked crab with my grandparents as a nipper. Invariably, the odd piece of shell ended up in the meat, mostly due to the lack of skill exerted by the hammer wielder, but never enough to put me off.
Mixed with a dollop of mustard-heavy mayonnaise, a few leaves of peppery watercress, and generously spread between doorstops of bloomer, I’m totally in my element. Sold, done, dusted.
April is the month that these beauties from the deep become readily available, and the UK season runs until around November. Always try to buy them alive, if possible, and cook them in rapidly boiling, heavily salted water for 15 minutes per kilo. Allow to cool, ideally on a window sill, and then place in a fridge once cool enough to handle.
Preparing crab is time consuming, and a tad fiddly, but very rewarding. Don’t waste a single scrap, with the exception of the gills or “dead mans fingers”. If you’re not a fan of the richly flavoured brown crabmeat fan, stir it into scrambled eggs or a risotto.
And don’t waste the shells either: you can make the most amazing crab bisque with them and a few other aromatic ingredients. A useful tip is to wrap them up in an old tea towel and smash them to smithereens with a rolling-pin first!
As for this, I’ve kept things simple, delicious and quick, to allow the flavour of the crab to shine.
Place a wok or deep-sided pan onto the heat and add thumbs depth of oil – keep an eye on it!
Whip up the eggs, adding the fish sauce to season and the green chilli, set aside.
When the oil has reached around 150 degrees, deep-fry the ginger, shallot, and the red chillies separately until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Allow the heat to recover in the oil before pouring the egg mixture in from a height. This will create a good bubbly texture in the omelette.
Flip the egg “raft” over when the bottom is almost cooked through and continue to fry until thoroughly set.
Remove from the oil and drain on a cake rack for a couple of minutes in a warm place. To execute the dish, scatter the crab, garnishes and picked coriander leaves across the top. Scoff the lot while warm!!
By Duncan Parsonage
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This flexible dish is often on the summer menu at the Tolcarne Inn, a stone’s throw from Newlyn harbour. “I change the main element according to what’s best at the fish market,” says Ben Tunnicliffe.read more