Cornish chilli crab by Jack Stein

Chili Crab - 0228

Singapore, in many ways, is where it all really began for me. Our family had travelled in Europe and eaten oysters and other fruits de mer in Brittany and beyond but in 1985, on a trip to Australia when I was five, my love of seafood really took off. On a stopover in Singapore we went, as usual, to a night market and that’s where I first saw and tasted chilli crab. Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the unbelievable humidity, but something in the experience opened my senses. I knew crabs, but not like these. Those watching me in the market might have been confused to see a small, pale, ginger-haired kid looking perplexed by his sensory overload, but in fact I was being seduced by the wonderful flavours that the crab dish had to offer. Ever since I have found the combination of eating Asian food at 11pm while jet-lagged to be paradise – and I owe it all to this dish!

My father’s version of chilli crab uses brown crab, which is far fuller-flavoured than the mud crabs used in Singapore. My own recipe is similar to his but with a few tweaks – a classic but with just a little twist.

SERVES 4

2kg boiled brown crab
4 tablespoons groundnut or sunflower oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm fresh root ginger, finely chopped
3 medium-hot, red, Dutch chillies, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon Marmite
2 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces and finely shredded lengthways
a handful of chopped coriander

Put the crab on its back on the chopping board, so that the claws and softer body section face upwards, then simply twist off the main claws, leaving the legs attached to the body. Now put your thumbs against the hard shell, close to the crab’s tail, and push and prise the body section out and away from the shell. The legs should still be attached to the body. Remove the small stomach sac situated just behind the crab’s mouth and pull away the feather-like gills (‘dead man’s fingers’) which are attached along the edges of the centre part; discard these.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out the brown meat from inside the shell; reserve.

Chop the body into quarters and then cut the main claws in half at the joint. Crack the shells of each piece with a hammer or the blunt edge of a large knife.

Heat the oil, garlic, ginger and chilli in a wok for 1 minute to release their aromas.

Next, turn up the heat and fry off the brown crab meat, then add the ketchup, soy sauce, Marmite and 150ml water. These all add savoury and sweet notes to the finished dish. Now add the remaining crab in its shell and stir-fry the crab for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and finish with spring onions and chopped coriander.

Serve immediately – with lots of finger bowls and napkins, as this is a messy dish.

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Read the review

Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Jack Stein’s World on a Plate

Jack Stein

What’s the USP? A chef’s global travels recorded in recipes.

Who’s the author? If you think you recognize the surname, you’re right. Jack is the son of Rick and since 2017, Chef Director of the Stein restaurant empire, which under his direction has grown from its HQ in Padstow across Cornwall and the south of England. His CV also includes stints at notable restaurants around the globe including La Régalade in Paris and Testsuya in Sydney. World on a Plate is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? The fresh, colourful and appetising dishes (shot by top food photographer Paul Winch-Furness) are interspersed with shots of yer man walking his dog, with his surfboard and chatting to fishermen (any of this sounding familiar, fellow Rick Stein fans?). 

Is it good bedtime reading? The skimpy intro won’t keep you occupied for long but there’s plenty of anecdotes about Stein’s travels and useful cooking tips embedded into the individual recipe introductions.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ll find the vast majority in the supermarket, but you’ll want to do the Stein name justice by visiting your local fishmonger for some decent fish for langoustine with pastis and sea trout with samphire and beurre blanc.

What’s the faff factor? There’s a nice cross-section of dishes to rustle up when time is tight like crab omelette and more complicated, involved recipes such as guinea fowl terrine.

How often will I cook from the book? With everything from a fish finger sandwich to a Sunday lunch (‘My roast topside of beef), Jack Stein’s World on a Plate won’t be collecting dust on your bookshelf.

Killer recipes? Maple roasted pumpkin with rocket, dukkah and feta; Carl Clarke’s chicken clusters in laksa sauce; lamb shoulder with white miso cream and chicory; babi gulang (Balinese spicy pork with green bean and peanut salad); turbot on the bone roasted with bone marrow sauce.

What will I love? This is truly global cooking with recipes inspired by France, America, China, Australia, Thailand and of course Cornwall, which brings huge variety to the book.

What won’t I like? Stein wanton larder raiding of so many cuisines means you might bankrupt yourself buying all the different ingredients required to prepare the recipes. 

Should I buy it? If you’re looking for inspiration for something a bit different for a mid-week meal to cook at home, this hits the spot. Although you might notice some crossover between father and son’s cookbooks (Jack did a lot of his global travels on family research trips for The Seafood restaurant) Stein Jr has an individual enough voice to make the recipes his own.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Cook from this book
Cornish Chilli Crab
Green pasta bits
Pineapple tart tatin

The Hidden Hut by Simon Stallard

The Hidden Hut jacket

What’s the USP? Recipes from one of Cornwall’s best-loved beach restaurants, famous for its open-air feast nights.

Who’s the author? Simon Stallard is the chef and owner of The Hidden Hut, a casual beachside restaurant set in ‘an old wooden shed’ on a coastal path near Truro. Stallard worked around the globe from ‘New York to New Delhi’ before settling in Cornwall and opening the Hut in 2010.

What does it look like? The numerous scene-setting photographs mean that you can almost feel the sand between your toes and smell the salty tang of the sea. Reading the Hidden Hut will make you want to jump in the car and immediately head for the south Cornish coast. The colourfully rustic food looks very appealing, the sort of pleasingly unpretentious stuff you just want to get stuck into.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not so much, just a short introduction and a ‘How to cook over fire section’ (cooking over a wood fire in the open air is what Hidden Hut feast nights are all about and Stallard shares his expertise over a 10-page section of the book).

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You will be at an advantage if you live by the coast and can get your hands on spider crabs, octopus and gurnard, but as long as you can get to a good fishmonger you’ll be fine.

What’s the faff factor? Dishes range from a straightforward mid-week meal of lamb cutlets with butter bean mash and fresh mint sauce to a special-occasion-only slow roasted goat in preserved lemons, but overall the food is about as far from overwrought, tweezered complex restaurant food as you can get.

How often will I cook from the book? With recipes for breakfast (smokey bacon pastries), lunch (chicken and wild garlic soup), picnics (green pea scotch eggs) and parties (seafood paella for 40) as well as lots of delicious dinner ideas, it’s difficult to say when you won’t be cooking from the book.

Killer recipes? Despite the crab on the cover, this is not just a seafood cookbook. In addition to dishes like red-hot mullet with sticky rice balls and cucumber salad and Summer sardines with saffron potatoes and oregano dressing, there’s plenty of meat and veg in the form of 12-hour lamb with smoky aubergine, and samphire frittata with warm lemony courgette salad.

What will I love? There’s a real feel-good factor about the book, open it at any page and you’ll be inspired to get in the kitchen and cook.

What won’t I like? If you want super serious, complex cheffy cooking, this is not the book for you.

Should I buy it? The Hidden Hut is the sort of book with recipes that will become perennial favourites that you’ll find yourself going back to time and time again. So that’s a yes.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
The Hidden Hut
£20, HarperCollins

Cook from this book
Buttermilk drop cakes with lemon curd
Chicken and wild garlic soup
Fire-pit wild sea bass with verde sauce

Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill

Photographer Paul Winch-FurnessThe oyster emulsion here is an absolute winner. It’s also amazing served as a dip with some oysters in tempura or with a beef tartare. The way the salmon is cooked is a trick I picked up from Raymond Blanc. I’ll never forget tasting it for the first time. It simply blew my mind and taught me to understand the nature of cooking fish. You will often hear chefs say that it takes great skill to cook fish. I slightly disagree. I believe it just requires an understanding. Fish is delicate and in most cases should never be cooked at too high a temperature, otherwise the fish tenses up and an unpleasant white protein appears, which for me is an alarm bell screaming that I have overcooked the fish.

Serves 4

Oyster Emulsion

100g banana shallots, sliced
200ml dry white wine
130g freshly shucked rock oysters (juice reserved)
150ml grapeseed oil
5 sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon crème fraîche

Put the shallots into a saucepan and pour over the white wine. Place on a medium to low heat and boil until all the wine has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Tip the shallot mixture and oysters into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. While blending, gradually add the oil to make a mayonnaise consistency. Add the sorrel leaves and blend through, then blend in some of the reserved oyster juice to loosen the mixture. Stir in the crème fraîche. Keep the emulsion in the fridge until ready to serve.

Fried Wakame

200ml vegetable oil, for frying
50g dried wakame

Heat the oil in a deep pan to 160°C. Fry the wakame for 1½ minutes or until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Assembly

250g Cured Salmon (see Larder)
8 slices Fennel Kimchi (see Larder)
dill fronds
fennel fronds

Portion the salmon into four pieces. Place a spoon of oyster emulsion on each plate and add a piece of salmon to the side. Arrange the fennel kimchi and fried wakame around the fish. Garnish with dill and fennel.

Extract taken from Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Cook more recipes from this book:
Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill
Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill

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Larder: From pantry to plate – delicious recipes for your table

Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber by Jonathan Haley

WS Harissa mackerel June-1

These spicy flatbreads are perfect for an informal summer lunch. The cooling cucumber and light yoghurt dressing are a great match for punchy North African spices and rich fish.

To remove the pin bones (the line of small bones that runs down the centre of each fillet), use a small, very sharp knife and cut at an angle either side of the line, creating a V-shaped channel. Lift one end of the strip with the tip of the knife and pull away gently in one piece. As an alternative, the bones can be pulled out with a pair of needle-nosed pliers or tweezers while pressing down gently on the fillet behind the bone. It’s not difficult but your fishmonger will also happily do it for you.

Serves 4 as a generous starter or light lunch

For the dressing
150g natural yoghurt
40g harissa paste
1 lemon, juice only

For the pickled cucumber
1 large cucumber
Maldon sea salt
50ml cider (or white wine) vinegar
50g caster sugar
For the fish
4 large, fresh mackerel, filleted and pin bones removed
4 tsp harissa paste
1 tbsp oil for frying
8 large, soft flatbreads

1. Preheat the oven to 150˚C.

2. Make the dressing by spooning the yoghurt into a small bowl. Stir in the harissa, add the lemon juice and stir well.

3. Peel the cucumber and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds using a teaspoon and slice into ócm crescents. Season the cucumber with a generous pinch of salt.

4. Prepare the pickling liquid by stirring the sugar and vinegar together until dissolved. Pour the liquid over the cucumber pieces and put to one side, turning occasionally while you prepare the fish.

5. Spread 1/2 tsp of harissa paste onto the flesh side of each mackerel fillet. Add the oil to a large, non-stick frying pan on a high heat and fry the fish, skin side down, for about 3 minutes. The fillets will curl up as they hit the heat but gentle, firm pressure from a palette knife will flatten them out again. Don’t be tempted to move them around the pan. When the skin is browned and crispy, turn and fry for 30 seconds more, flesh side down.

Extracted from
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

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Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb
Iced strawberry parfait

Read the review

Buy the book
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

Smitten Kitchen Everyday

What is it? Five years on from her debut book, this is the second outing for New York-based dating-turned-food blogger extraordinaire Deb Perelman of New York Times profiled smittenkitchen.com with over 100 recipes for ‘real people with busy lives’.

What does it look like? What is it about American-published cookbooks that makes them just so damn desirable? I’m not an uber font-nerd but the Minion typeface used here (originally developed by Adobe for Macs in 1990 according to a note at the back of the book) is particularly attractive and clean looking. At over 300 pages, the book has a certain authoritative weight and the glossy paper makes the 127 full-colour photographs pop.

Is it good bedtime reading?  Set aside that Grisham, the generous recipe introductions include plenty of culinary-related personal anecdotes and opinion, as well as cookery lore and background to the recipes themselves, making it a nighttime page-turner par excellence.

Killer recipes? Charred corn succotash with lime and crispy shallots; pea tortellini in parmesan broth; Manhattan-style clams with fregola; winter squash flatbread with hummus and za’atat;  ricotta blini with honey, orange and sea salt; raspberry hazelnut brioche bostock; chewy oatmeal raisin chocolate chip mega-cookies.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Despite an almost encyclopedic approach to global cuisine, you should have no trouble finding the vast majority of ingredients in a good supermarket.

What’s the faff factor? Make no mistake, this is ‘proper’ cooking and many of the recipes have several elements that need to be brought together at the point of serving, but with a little planning and organisation, they should be stress-free.

How often will I cook from the book? Every day (duh!).

What will I love? This is an American book, but, God bless them, they’ve included gram or millilitre equivalents for cup measures which rockets the book to the top of the usability charts for UK readers (other US publishers please take note). The guide for special menus at the back of the book that highlights vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and diary-free recipes (of which there are many) is particularly thoughtful.

What won’t I like? Me, if I find out you don’t love this book as much as I do.

Should I buy it? Only if you like cooking delicious food. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Cuisine: American/International
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 5 Stars

Buy this book
Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites
£25, Square Peg

Cook from this book
Crispy tofu and broccoli with sesame peanut pesto
Smoky sheet pan chicken with cauliflower

Hook Line Sinker by Galton Blackiston

Hook Line Sinker

The silver-edged pages of Hook Line Sinker glint in the light, like the skin of the fresh sea bass featured on the cover of this strikingly designed book – it’s even wrapped in a transparent PVC dust jacket. It looks just as good on the inside too (not surprising; it’s from the company that published Sat Bains’s sumptuous Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian) with bold typography and images of not just the food but also the Norfolk coast that is the book’s inspiration.

Galton Blackiston is ideally qualified to write a seafood cookbook.  A keen fisherman from childhood, he’s been chef patron of Michelin-starred Morston Hall for 25 years where seafood is an important part of the menu, and more recently opened No 1, a modern fish and chip restaurant in Cromer.

Blackiston’s approach to seafood is simple; ‘it has to be fresh, needs to be cooked with precision, and there’s little room for error. You just need to have a good seafood supplier and cook it well’. He’s applied a similar ethos to compiling the recipes, not attempting to write a definitive seafood guide, simply gathering some of his favourite restaurant dishes from over the years that also work for the home cook.

Although there is a chapter dedicated to main courses, Blackiston eschews the traditional starter category (there’s no desserts, no one wants a fishy pudding after all), instead organising the remaining recipes into ‘quick and easy’, ‘small plates’, ‘stress free’ and ‘spicy seafood’ allowing readers to dip in according to mood and time available.

The thorny, complex issue of sustainability isn’t addressed (a bluefin tuna dish is included, a fish that has suffered from plummeting stocks) and the recipes stick to better-known varieties like salmon, prawns, scallops and crab. But the dishes are nevertheless delicious, ranging from a classic fillet of sea trout with samphire and beurre blanc to lager, soy and ginger-fried whitebait with wasabi aioli.

What comes across loud and clear from this collection is that Blackiston has a singular culinary mind; yes, he’s included crowd pleasers like salt and pepper squid, but dishes like crab jelly with pea panna cotta set the inventive tone. Hook Line Sinker has been 25 years in the making. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait a quarter of a century for the follow up.

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine

Cuisine: Modern European
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Hook Line Sinker: A Seafood Cookbook
£25 Face Publications

Ensenada fish tacos by Rick Stein

071_EnsenadaFriedFishTacosI.jpg

For many years the beaches on the north coast of Cornwall were patrolled by Australian lifeguards, originally because they had the surf life-saving skills that were unfamiliar to the locals. For me, this meant many summers of friendship with pleasant Australians, all of whom seemed to be sunny and optimistic. Well, you would be, wouldn’t you, with a summer in Cornwall and lots of locals finding you irresistible? One such lifeguard was Rudi, who used to return year after year. Everyone was extremely fond of him – so much so that we filmed a little sequence about a trip he’d made to Ensenada on the Baja California coast, where they made fabulous fish tacos. We cooked some on the beach in Cornwall by the lifeguard hut, and Rudi took Chalky, my Jack Russell, out for a little surfing lesson. Sadly, when back in Australia five years later, Rudi died of cancer and I always thought that one day I’d get to Ensenada and find the tacos.

Serves six

12 x 15cm Corn tortillas
(page 44 or bought)
600g cod fillet
100g plain flour, seasoned
with pinch of salt and
6 turns black peppermill
1 litre corn or vegetable oil
For the batter
200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
275ml ice-cold beer

For the toppings
¼ small white cabbage,
finely shredded
1 avocado, stoned,
peeled and diced
Pico de gallo salsa
Hot chilli sauce, such as Cholula or Huichol

For the chipotle crema
2 Chipotles en adobo
(page 298 or bought)
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp soured cream
Juice of ½ lime

Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven. Get your toppings – shredded cabbage, diced avocado, pico de gallo salsa, and hot chilli sauce – ready. Mix the ingredients for the crema and set aside.

To make the batter, sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a roomy bowl. Using a balloon whisk, incorporate the beer until you have a smooth batter. Set aside.

Cut the fish into fingers about 1cm thick. Heat the oil in a large pan to 190°C. Dip a few pieces of fish into the seasoned flour, shake off the excess, then dip them into the batter. Fry for 2–2½ minutes until crisp and golden. Repeat until you’ve cooked all the fish, draining each batch briefly on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serve the fish immediately in warm tortillas, with the toppings on the table for guests to help themselves.

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Turkey breast with pasilla chipotle chilli butter sauce
Mexican rice pudding with honeycomb

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Rick Stein: The Road to Mexico (TV Tie in)