Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maryland blue crabs

  • This evening was spent amongst some truly great people enjoying terrific conversation, laughter and proper eating company. All the while consuming a disgraceful quantity of Maryland blue crabs, steamed and coated in their Old Bay Seasoning. Magical and moreish. Sickly spicy, yet insanely addictive. I think between 5 adults and an awesome 6 year old kid we easily took apart the best part of 70+ crabs in a near 4 hour session. Beyond the weird yet wonderful seasoning, the sweet meat of these gorgeous crabs was just amazing. Now these spice recipes are closely guarded secrets, so in an attempt to put something of note up here, I've gone for the best crab dish I think I've ever had prior to tonight. Consider this my second best offering till I work this spice mix out. The photo was before the assault took place, quite horrified by the state of the table at the end of dinner, so leaving that out for now...

  • Serves 4

  • 4 blue crabs
  • 3 tsp tamarind pulp
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 5cm piece fresh ginger
  • 2 birdseye chillies
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 3 tblsp oil
  • 3 tblsp sugar
  • 2 tsp tomato puree

This Singaporean dish is a total classic and, like all classics, it is superb served simply with nothing more than a bowl of plain steamed rice.

  • Boil a large pot of water and drop in 4 green blue swimmers, if you're anywhere near the Chesapeake you'll know what to do. Boil them rapidly for 4 minutes then tip the contents of the pot into a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, chop crabs into quarters with a cleaver or large knife, leaving legs attached to body. With a hammer. gently crack the claws and areas of harder shell. 

  • Put 3 teaspoons tamarind pulp to soak in the cup boiling water. Finely chop 2 onions, grate 5 cm piece fresh ginger, finely slice 2-3 birdseye chillies (or to taste) and chop 3 spring onions. Mix 2 teaspoons cornflour with a little water. In a large wok or pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and stir fry onion, ginger and 2/3 of the chopped chillies for a couple of minutes. 

  • Add crab pieces and strained tamarind water, lower heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Lift the crab out onto a serving dish and to the mixture in the wok add 3 teaspoons sugar and 2 of tomato paste. Stir, add dissolved cornflour and stir again until the mixture thickens. Pour over the crab, garnish with the rest of the chillies and the spring onions and serve.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Imam Bayildi

Serves 4

This aubergine dish is said to have been named after the priest, the Imam, who first tasted it and swooned at the flavour and amount of olive oil in it. Here, I have created a much lighter effect, but it’s still bursting with spice and Middle-Eastern promise. Simple to make and great served with warm pitta bread and pre dinner drinks in the garden. Made in exactly the same way but stuffed into some little baby aubergines for a bit more fancy pants stuff is exactly how dinner began at the Embassy this evening. There's been some thunder in the air these past few days, so this tropical feeling we're experiencing made this dish work all the better.

1 aubergine
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 large vine tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and diced
2 tsp cumin
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g sultanas
Handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Trim the ends from the aubergine, then cut lengthways into 1cm slices. Stack the slices together and cut into long strips, then cut across the strips to create neat, even dice, about 1cm in size.

Take a large frying pan and pour in olive oil to a depth of 1cm. Heat the oil and, when hot enough to turn a small piece of bread instantly golden, add half the aubergine cubes. The aubergine will quickly absorb most of the oil. Stir with a metal spatula and continue to fry until the aubergine is golden brown.

Remove the aubergine from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add more oil to bring the level back to 1cm and repeat with the rest of the aubergine.

Place the onion in a large bowl and add the tomatoes, cumin and lemon juice. Season well. When the aubergine has cooled, add it to the bowl along with the sultanas and basil. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavours to infuse.