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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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

Gunpowder by Harneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save

Gunpowder

What’s the USP? ‘Explosive flavours from modern India’ runs the subtitle. In reality, this is a collection of recipes from Gunpowder, a ‘home-style Indian kitchen restaurant’ in Spitalfields London.

Who’s the author? Husband and wife team Harneet Baweja and Devina Seth opened the 20-cover Gunpowder restaurant close to Brick Lane in 2015 with head chef Nirmal Save. This is their debut cookbook.

What does it look like? Mouthwateringly good. Recipes collected from family in Kolkata and Mumbai and inspired by Indian street food have been given a makeover with attractive modern plating. There’s some moody black and white scene setting shots of the restaurant and its kitchen and some boldly colourful shots of the subcontinent.

Is it good bedtime reading? There is very little additional text asie from a two page introduction and a spice glossary. Chapter and recipe introductions are concise and to the point.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Unless you can shoot it yourself, you’ll need a good butcher to find you some wild rabbit to make the pulao recipe and you may have trouble finding pomfret (but you can just substitute John Dory the recpe says) but otherwise it’s pretty mainstream stuff.

What’s the faff factor? There are the long ingredient lists of numerous spices that you’d normally associate with Indian cooking which make the recipes look more complicated than they actually are. In reality, most of the dishes are striaghtforward and well within the capability of any confident home cook.

How often will I cook from the book? If you love Indian food, you might well find yourself taking the book from your shelf on a regular basis.

Killer recipes? Chutney cheese sandwich; Mustard broccoli with makhana sauce; Maa’s Kashmiri lamb chops; wild rabbit pulao; blue crab Malabar curry.

What will I love? The small plates chapter is full of inspiration for something a little bit different for breakfast (chickpea pancakes with fried eggs and tomato and coriander chutney) lunch (kale and corn cakes) or beer snacks (kadai paneer parcel; a spicy cheese and puff pastry roll) while the list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks will put a spicy spring in your step.

What won’t I like? At under 200 pages, this is not the most comprehensive cookbook in the world.

Should I buy it? A diverse collection of delicious sounding, attractive looking dishes that are not too demanding to cook and suitable for any number of occasions and times of the day. If you like Indian food, you are going to love this book.

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

Buy this book
Gunpowder: Explosive flavours from modern India
£25, Kyle Books

Cook from this book
Mustard Broccoli

Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu by Matt Abergel

139 eggplant salad

 

Ingredients:

Japanese eggplant (aubergine) ……………………………….  1 piece
Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu (see below) …………  25g
Cucumber ……………………………………………………………….  50g
Myoga, sliced ………………………………………………………….  12g
Vietnamese crispy shallots………………………………………  14g
Olive oil …………………………………………………………….…….  4g. plus extra to dress
Salt ………………………………………………………………………….  1g

For the Pickled Garlic and Ginger

Tosazu Tosazu (page 186) ……………………………………….  1 quantity
Bonito pickled garlic ………………………………………………..  300g
Ginger …………………………………………………………….……….  75g

 

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  1. First, make the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. This is a lot more than you need, but will keep well chilled for 1 month.
  2. Using a cook’s blowtorch, evenly sear the skin of the Japanese eggplants (aubergines). Only move from each spot that is burning when the skin glows like the end of a lit cigarette.
  3. As you burn each eggplant, place in a metal bowl covered in plastic wrap so that they steam gently.
  4. When ready to peel, place the eggplant on a paper towel and gently scrape away the skin.
  5. Place the eggplant flesh into a vacuum bag or an airtight container, cover with the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu, then seal and leave to marinate until ready to use (a minimum of 2 hours.)
  6. To cut the cucumber refer to page 127. Lightly salt the cucumber, then leave to sit in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes until water is released. Gently squeeze any excess water out of the cucumber batons and return to the refrigerator until ready to use.
  7. Combine 65 g of the marinated eggplant with the cucumber, half of the sliced myoga, 11 g of the fried shallots, the olive oil, and salt.
  8. To serve, put the salad in a chilled bowl, layering everything neatly. Garnish with the reserved shallots and myoga, then dress with olive oil.

Recipe extracted from Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel, published by Phaidon

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