I go on about the pleasures of sharing, but there is something appealing about having a little something to yourself. A golden croquette, hot from the pan, to wolf in one go. Or perhaps a dainty bun of choux pastry filled with cream, its surface tacky with chocolate fondant…
I splashed out on some dressed crab this week, padded out the snow-white needles of flesh with a few breadcrumbs, rolled them into balls and deep fried the lot. Toothsome, an old fashioned and totally appropriate word for a crisp morsel of crab with the faintest hint of brick-red harissa, but you couldn’t really think of them as a meal. We passed a batch of them round in a basket while drinking beers and eating thin slices of deep maroon, fat-marbled ham. No forks were necessary, although a napkin or two wouldn’t have gone amiss. Should you feel they would make supper, roll each one into the size of a plump scallop and serve with a tangle of green beans, lightly steamed then tossed in a shallow pan of finely chopped bacon and its glorious fat.
In my house, puddings and pastries are on the menu. Crumbs of comfort in a world gone mad
I should mention that I put mayonnaise in my crab croquettes and I do know it sounds a little odd, but I have been doing so for more than 20 years. The addition does more than bind the crab and crumbs – it is partly responsible for the soft, silk-like texture of the filling.
Perhaps to take our minds away from other events, I made a tray of sweet choux pastries, too, filled not only with cream but with nuggets of chopped chocolate. In my house, puddings and pastries are back on the menu with a vengeance. Crumbs of comfort in a world gone mad.Crab and harissa croquettes
If I have time, I will often prepare a crab myself, cracking the shell and tugging out the flesh with a skewer. It’s a deliciously messy job for a Saturday morning. That said, for fritters and these golden-shelled croquettes, it is worth considering the ready-picked fresh crab sold in tubs. I suggest the crisp panko crumbs, available in supermarkets and Japanese shops, for their ease and lightness. You can use fresh breadcrumbs, dried in the oven until crisp, if you prefer.
white crab meat 450gpanko crumbs 125gspring onions 3parsley leaves 7g (a handful)coriander leaves 7g (a handful)eggs 2grain mustard 1 tbspharissa 2 tspmayonnaise 120gYou will also need oil for deep frying
Put the crab and breadcrumbs into a large mixing bowl. Finely slice the spring onions, then chop the parsley and coriander leaves. Add all three to the crab and mix gently.
In a second bowl, break the eggs and beat lightly to mix yolks and whites, then blend in the mustard, harissa and mayonnaise. Stir into the crab gently combining crab, crumbs and seasoning.
Shape the crab mixture into 20 balls, each weighing approximately 45g, rolling them lightly in your hands, floured if necessary. Let the balls settle for 20 minutes in the fridge.
Pour enough oil into a pan in which to deep fry the croquettes and heat to 180C on a kitchen thermometer. Place one of the croquettes on a draining spoon and lower into the oil – it should crackle immediately – followed by 5 or more of the others, taking care not to crowd the pan. Keep an eye on the heat – you need it to remain fairly static. Fry the croquettes for 2-3 minutes until golden, lift out and drain on kitchen paper then repeat with further batches until the mixture is finished. Serve hot, with halves of lemon or lime.White chocolate and lemon buns Cream of the crop: white chocolate and lemon buns. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer
A bun filled with cream and nibs of chocolate, finished with a gossamer-thin coating of lemon icing. A frivolous thing, a treat for a Sunday afternoon. Lemon has a welcome effect on white chocolate, diluting the latter’s tendency to cloy by adding a clean, fresh note. Use dark chocolate if you prefer.
For the buns:water 125mlbutter 50gstrong white flour 75gsalt a good pincheggs 2, beaten
For the filling and icing:white chocolate 100gdouble cream 250glemon curd 125gicing sugar 175glemon juice 2 tbsp
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Pour the water into a small saucepan, add the butter and let it melt, then add the flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until you have a thick paste, then remove from the heat. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a food mixer and add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating at a fast pace with a flat paddle attachment. When you have a thick, creamy, sticky dough, place 8 generously heaped tbsp of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the buns for approximately 25 minutes, until well risen and crisp, then remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Finely chop the chocolate and set aside. Using a chilled bowl, whip the cream, until thick enough to spoon into the buns. Very gently fold in the chocolate and the lemon curd. Pierce a hole in each bun using a chop stick or small knife then push in the cream with a teaspoon. If you have a piping bag, use that. Set the buns back on the wire rack. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, stir in the lemon juice then spoon over the buns and leave to set.
The Observer publishes recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide