English Potted Crab
It's sometimes a real treat to take a break from modern global cooking and return to something purely and simply British or, in this case, English.
For centuries in this country there has been a great tradition of potting meat, fish, game and even cheese, and the results could hold their own among any collection of Continental pâtés and terrines. This particular recipe for potted Cromer crab is adapted from one given to me by one of my favourite chefs of all time, Michael Quinn. It's brilliant as a first course for a summer meal for six people, but two or three could easily polish off the whole lot for lunch. Either way, I like to serve it with toasted Irish soda bread and mustard and cress.
This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook. Serves 6 as a first course or 2-3 for lunch
Begin by placing the shallots, sherry and spices in a small saucepan.
Bring the whole lot up to simmering point, then boil quite briskly until the liquid has reduced to about a generous dessertspoon – it should only take about 2 minutes.
Next, stir in the cubes of butter and, when they are melted, turn the heat down to very low and let it all simmer as gently as possible for 15 minutes, giving it a stir from time to time. After that, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool for about half an hour. Towards the end of that time you'll need to assemble a nylon sieve fitted over a bowl and another bowl filled with ice cubes. Then pour the spicy butter through the sieve and press well to extract all the juice from the shallots.
Now set the bowl over the ice and, using an electric hand whisk, whisk until the butter becomes thick and creamy without becoming hard. Now mix in the crab meat, anchovy essence, teaspoon of lemon juice and a really good seasoning of salt and freshly milled black pepper. Taste and check the seasoning – you might like to add a little extra lemon juice. Then spoon the mixture into the ramekins or a larger pot. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours.
Remove the potted crab from the fridge about half an hour before serving and serve with mustard and cress, lemon quarters, perhaps a tad more cayenne pepper and fresh wholemeal bread and butter. Note: if you want to make this a day or so ahead, cover the surface with melted butter to seal off the air. To do this, melt 50 g (2 oz) of butter and divide it between the ramekins, pouring a bit over the potted crab in each one, or pour it all over the potted crab in the single large pot.