Last weekend, S and I hosted several friends for dinner. Our menu consisted of a few old favourites and a few new ones. We started our dinner with Teage Ezard‘s crab cakes with green chilli mayonnaise. This was followed by sakura ebi pasta, and then a pan-fried snapper fillet served with laksa sauce, shelled edamame and young asparagus. Our main course was the pork kakuni with scallop porridge I wrote about earlier this week. And for dessert, S made an espresso-orange panna cotta with coffee gelee that I loved.
S and I both love crab cakes. Our all-time favourite recipe comes from the seminal Chez Panisse Cooking. But for this dinner, we were really excited to try something new. Other Ezard recipes that we’ve made before have all turned out really well. I like how he manages to combine Eastern and Western flavours with flair and finesse. These crab cakes are less like their loose, fluffy American counterparts than they are like Thai fishcakes. They are compact and firm. And they’re very, very tasty. Ezard pairs his crab cakes with a green chilli mayonnaise. While it was nice, I actually think this would be nicer with a little creme fraiche and Thai sweet chilli sauce (a la Peter Gordon‘s famous scallop salad).
So long as you can get good quality crab, this is a relatively easy and rewarding dish to prepare. With a glass of Champagne (we served a stunning Vouette et Sorbee Blanc D’Argile), they make an excellent first course or hors d’ouevre.
Crab cakes with green chilli mayonnaise
adapted from a recipe in Lotus by Teage Ezard
Makes 18 small crab cakes
1 live mud crab weighing at least 1.3kg (2lb 10oz) or several fresh blue swimmer crans equal to the same weight
1 large red capsicum
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
600g (1lb 3oz) white fish fillets (such as whiting or john dory), skinned, boned and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
750ml vegetable oil
a little sliced ginger and spring onion
Kill the crab quickly and humanely. Chop it up and steam it until the flesh is just tender and the shells are bright red. We steam our crab with a little sliced ginger and spring onion in our Miele steam oven (a Godsend) for 10 minutes. Let your crab cool and peel it, setting aside the yummy flesh. You’ll need 250g (8oz) of meat for this recipe. Refrigerate or freeze the rest for a rainy day.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees F). Brush the capsicum with olive oil and roast until the skin begins to blister (10-15 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel the skin and scrape out the seeds. Finely chop the flesh.
Place the fish fillets, egg and sugar in a food processor and blend until the mixture is firm and sticky (around 3 minutes). This helps the cakes to hold together. Scoop mixture into a bowl and fold through the crab meat, capsicum, onion, lemon juice, fish sauce and Worcestershire and roll the mix into 18 even-sized balls. Press the balls flat into squat discs and chill until needed.
1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds, lightly roasted
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, lightly roasted
7 long green chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
250ml (8 fl oz) vegetable oil
1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 egg yolk
1.5 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint
250ml (8 fl oz) olive oil
Grind the caraway and coriander seeds to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Sieve to remove the husks. Pound the chillies into a paste. Set the powder and paste aside.
Heat 250ml of vegetable oil in a wok to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and fry the spinach leaves until crisp. Drain on paper towel.
Place the spice powder, chilli paste, spinach, egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, coriander and mint leaves in a food processpr. Blend to a smooth puree. Slowly add the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies and thickens.
Heat 750ml vegetable oil in a wok to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Fry the crab cakes in batches until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel and serve them with the mayo.