Crab is one of my all time favourite seafoods. I love crispy soft shell crab, I love crab claws dipped in garlic butter, I love shredded crab meat in a spicy Thai salad. However, I will forever vividly remember the first time G ever came to Australia. As a 19 year old feeling very grown up and taking his girlfriend to a really fancy Thai restaurant in Sydney we had a great meal – including crab – and took a taxi home. In the cab G suddenly fainted and was non-responsive for about ten terrifying seconds (felt like an hour) – turns out G’s allergic to crab. So we don’t eat it much.
In Mozambique where we recently went for Honeymoon (read all about it here and the first part of our honeymoon in Zambia here) where there were crabs everywhere. We had a picnic on an island one day and it was lovely to lie there drinking pina coladas and watching the crabs dart in and out of their holes – balling tiny pieces of sand like a trail of breadcrumbs before the tide comes in and wash all their hard work away. However, it was also fantastic to eat them – something I did frequently and with much pleasure.
There was one crab dish in particular that was truly delicious. A gorgeous stuffed and breaded crab served in its shell with a stonkingly good paprika and garlic aioli. More than simply being delicious, it also fits the bill for a seafood dish I would want to write about on this blog as it can be largely done ahead of time.
I think many people are a little scared of making seafood for groups because in general it has to be done last minute, could easily go wrong and has to be so fresh that the fisherman’s boat isn’t even back to the shore before you cook it. Every now and again though, you stumble across a recipe that defies all this logic. I’ve posted a few before – the lemon sole that you can prepare in advance and knock everyone’s socks off with and the roasted monkfish which is so simple you’ll think you’re doing something wrong. This crab recipe is another example and I know you will all like it as much as I do. The sweet peppers mixed with smoky paprika, pungent garlic and salty sweet white and brown crab meat is a heady delight that when paired with a glass of wine suddenly makes everything dissolve and become utterly peaceful.
Poaching crab is not that hard to do. However, I must admit that it’s not even really necessary for you to do it yourself. At my fishmongers, and most fishmongers I’ve ever seen, you can buy pre-poached white and brown crab meat and often they’ll give you the shells for free (brilliant tip if you want to make bisque as well). I do actually often buy the crab like this (when I’m not cooking for G) because I just don’t always have the time to poach it and then clean it and pick through for shell. That little cheat makes this recipe even easier – just don’t tell anyone because it’s our little secret. Also, if you can’t get a shell then simply bread the whole mixture and pan fry like a crab cake rather than deep-frying (otherwise it will fall apart).
For the aioli recipe, make a simple mayonnaise (recipe here) and add a little roasted garlic (or even less raw garlic) and a touch of paprika. Now for the main dish…
Breaded crab with sweet peppers
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper finely diced
- 2 banana shallots minced (or as finely diced as you can manage)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika (you can use all smoked or all sweet but I like the mix myself)
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 4 small crabs worth of white and brown meat (or 1 large crab)
- Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1 egg whole
- 50g flour
- Oil for frying (canola or vegetable work well but any frying oil will work)
- Place a pan over a low heat and add a glug of olive oil, the peppers, garlic and the shallots with a pinch of sea salt and cook for 20 minutes stirring every now and again to stop them catching. They should go soft and sweet. Allow to cool
- Meanwhile combine the white and brown crab meat, a pinch of salt, the paprika and the cayenne pepper and then add in the peppers and onion mixture and mix in the whole egg.
- Place the mixture in the crab shells and leave in the fridge to firm up for 15 minutes.
- At this point you can wait up to two days before finishing the crabs – perfect if you want to make up to this point the night before people come round. (It also freezes well).
- Remove from the fridge and dip the exposed side first into the flour (dusting off the excess), then into the beaten egg and finally into the panko breadcrumbs. You should end up with a light panko covering on the exposed side.
- Heat oil in a deep pan until a piece of bread that you’ve dropped in sizzles and browns (about 180 celsius) and add the crabs to the hot oil. Fry until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp (about 3 minutes) and serve with a light green salad and the paprika mayonnaise.