If I had to choose my favourite meal, it would include lobster or crab, but only from Harwich. We are extremely lucky to have a regular supply of locally landed shellfish from Gary ‘the crab’ Hambling. We serve his lobsters year-round and his beautiful dressed crabs have recently made an appearance on our spring menu.
Crab is extremely versatile. Served chilled with lemon and herb mayonnaise, or a simple vinaigrette, it makes a simple and healthful meal. We use it in soups, salads and tarts, but one of the most popular menu items was inspired by my Mom. Her cocktail crab cakes were always a hit at drinks parties in the 70’s and the tradition lives on here in Mistley. We tend to serve them three or four on a plate as a starter, but they are equally good as a main course. I like to serve them with a little watercress salad tossed with mustard vinaigrette and some new potatoes drizzled with parsley butter. This recipe makes about 30 small bites.
For the Crab Mixture
375g (12 oz) crab meat, a mixture of white and dark meat
2 thick slices of good quality white bread, slightly stale and broken into small crumbs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil for frying
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine the crab meat and bread crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chopped peppers, shallots, Tabasco sauce, coriander and mayonnaise. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the mixture into approx. 1 ½ tablespoon portions, and form into small cakes. (Can be made ahead up to 24 hours and refrigerated).
Heat about 4 tablespoons oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches of 6 to 7, place the crab cakes in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds to a minute, then turn and cook the other side. Transfer the cakes to a tray lined with kitchen roll to absorb the excess oil, and then transfer to a baking sheet. To serve, bake the cakes in a hot oven for 7 to 10 minutes, and serve warm with some good mayonnaise and fresh lemon.