Tim Maddams's Retro Crab Salad
You can lobster at me all you like, for me, crab is the king of the crustaceans…………….
There’s is something satisfyingly British about crab. The idea of a crab sandwich is one that
you are unlikely to think of in the context of world beating dishes but its the simplicity, the
unwitting celebration of the best crab meat in the world that has made the crab sandwich such
an icon of our regional food offering in the south west, let’s face it: Crab rocks.
Crab is ace on all levels, the white meat delivers a meaty sweetness that is somehow
“shoreline” in accent, being neither distinctly fishy nor meaty but a happy somewhere in
between. The shell of the humble brown crab (AKA the edible crab, somewhat of a misnomer
as all our native crabs are edible) Cancer Pagarus, when treated correctly, provides one of
the most intensely savoury and deeply complex stocks available to man and that still leaves
the brown meat. I love the brown meat, disparaged by many as being grainy or offal like I
think the truth of the matter is that it’s intensely crabby. The brown meat contains the fat. The
brown meat contains an immensely complex earthy-come-seaweed-come-prawn flavour that
is so special it’s unmistakeable. The brown meat makes me happy, very, very happy.
Truly fresh brown crab, needs very little adornment, I love to just smear it on toast, season
with a little pepper and add lemon juice and call it a day. It’s a “no brainier” for a quick pasta
supper, cook pasta, add crab, olive oil, chilli garlic and parsley and you are done for the
evening, bar opening the well chilled nectar of course.
This simple crab salad recipe is perhaps a bit 1970’s but none the worse for that, I love it, it
can be made with simple ingredients available at pretty much any shop these days and the
dressing contain the brown crab means that the most flavoursome of the crab meat is off set
by the acidic and punchy ingredients, all in all, there is very little not to like – you can even
serve it with well buttered triangles of brown sliced bread for that authentic 70’s vibe.
Serves two as a light lunch, 3 as a starter.
To make the dressing
125g (Or half a pot!) brown crab meat
Juice of ½ a lemon
Pinch of chilli flakes (or lots of black pepper)
1 good pinch of smoked paprika
1 egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, really, really finely chopped.
100 ml light olive oil
½ bunch chives, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon of French mustard
In a suitable mixing bowl, beat together the brown crab, the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice,
the spices and the mustard. Keep on beating and add the oil a little at a time, so as not to
split the dressing – it’s not the end of the world if it splits, it will still taste lovely. Remember
to taste this as you go along, it will need careful seasoning and maybe even a dash more
lemon juice or even a hint of the zest. Add the chopped chives and stir gently.
Set to one side – but not in the fridge, ideally the salad won’t be fridge cold when served, it
kills the flavour.
For the salad
2 baby gem type lattices
150g (Or half a Pot!) of fresh white crab meat
1 punnet of old fashioned cress
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley
8 new potatoes boiled and allowed to cool a little
2 hard boiled eggs
Remove the seeds from the cucumber and finely dice it. Separate the lettuce leaves and
wash them, drain or spin them well and set aside a few of the larger leaves for use later,
carefully shred the rest (depending on size, you may have some left over, play it by ear but
as a rule you want quite a lot of dressing and not so much salad!) and place it in a large
mixing bowl. Add the cucumber and half the white crab meat along with the dressing and
toss. Add the potatoes, sliced and toss again, then use and egg slice to slice the eggs and
place 2/3 rd of these in the salad as well, season, toss again.
Arrange the whole leaves of lettuce on a large serving platter and spoon generous amounts
of the salad into / onto them. Scatter over the remaining crab and egg on top.
To finish the salad, simply throw over the cress, parsley and a sprinkling of extra smoked
paprika, add some lemon wedges and away you go. Hopefully, your guests will turn up in a Ford Capri with a bottle of Mateus Rose