Is this thing still on?
Bearing in mind that London seems to eat up as much of my time as it does the content of my wallet, my sabbatical is perhaps understandable (and forgivable?).
If you have the time and the patience, making a simple crab & saffron bisque can be an almost therapeutic pastime. The flavour achieved here is more than worth the wait, and just the smells it creates alone, are enough to brighten any gloomy winter day.
Treat your ears to songs like this, a perfect accompaniment to a bisque journey.
For this I used blue crabs. They’re slightly smaller than the brown crab and carry a sweeter flavour – perfect for a bisque. Blue crabs are also considerably easier to manage once cooked, although watch out for their spiney claws!
To make the stock:
blue crabs x 2
white onions x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 2
garlic cloves (smashed) x 3
splash of dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
boiling water 2.5l
For the bisque (Serves 4):
crab stock (see above)
white onion x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 1
garlic clove x 1
saffron threads x 3
fennel seeds x 1 pinch
single cream x 2tbsp
white crab meat, lemon zest & fresh parsley to garnish
Start by roughly chopping your veg, smashing your garlic cloves, and boiling your water.
Heat a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large stock pot or pan and add your veg. Keeping the heat on high, add a squeeze of your tomato puree.
After 5 minutes or so, add a good splash of white wine, the thyme, lemon juice and reduce. Now add the water and keep it simmering for 20 minutes.
If you bought your crabs alive, I’d urge you to use a humane method of dispatching them before cooking them. You can find these methods online, complete with video instructions.
Boil the crabs in the stock for 10 minutes and then carefully lift them out, and leave to cool before handling. Twist off its two main claws. With the crab lying on its back, use your thumbs to push the purse (main body) away from the top shell. Now, remove the legs and leave to one side.
On the underside of the purse you will notice feather-like gills – remove all of these and discard, as they are poisonous.
Using a large knife, divide the purse into four sections, keeping aside as much of the white meat as possible.
Don’t bother scooping out the brown meat from the top shell, this will add even more flavour to the stock.
Wrapping the pieces of shell, claws and legs in a cloth, use a rolling pin to smash the pieces up finely and re-add to the stock along with the four sections of the purse.
Season well and simmer on medium-high for 80 minutes.
Use a spoon to skim off any scum that collects at the top.
Using a fine sieve, remove all the solids, and transfer to another pan.
Et voila, you have some delicious crab stock.
From here you really have a blank canvas. This stock can be used in risottos, soups, pasta sauces, paellas, curries etc. You’ll struggle to replicate this seafood flavour any other way.
The hard part’s over, now all you have to do is use the stock to make a creamy bisque.
Finely chop the vegetables, and add to a hot pan with a knob of butter. Fry on medium until soft. Grate your clove of garlic and keep on a low heat for a few more minutes. Now add 600ml stock, along with with the saffron and fennel seeds, turn up the heat and reduce for 10 minutes.
Blend with a hand blender until smooth.
Finish by adding the cream, and turning down the heat.
Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, white crab meat and lemon zest, if you like.