A RECENT visit to the fishmonger’s stall at the end of a Saturday market produced several bargains. Among the haul was a couple of dressed crabs. Crab is delicious with some mayonnaise, toast, and green salad, as a sort of open sandwich. But I also wanted to try out something with pasta, and, instead of the usual Italian tomato-and-rocket confection, devised Crab and asparagus spaghetti. Asparagus is still just about in season, but this can be made at any time with peas instead. This serves about four people as a starter.
1 leek (150g/5 oz)
1 fennel bulb (50g/3 oz)
1 garlic clove
100ml white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
280g (10 oz) spaghetti
260g (9 oz) asparagus
180g (6 oz) picked crab meat
1 teaspoon white pepper
chopped parsley, olive oil
Wash and slice the leek and fennel. Heat a wide pan with a good glug of olive oil and sauté together until soft. Bash, peel, and mince the garlic clove; stir this in with the thyme. Turn down the heat and let this simmer gently for ten minutes or so.
Heat some salted water in a saucepan, and, once boiling, add the spaghetti. It should take no more than ten minutes to cook. (You don’t want it entirely soft but still firm to the bite. At that stage, turn off the heat.)
Before the pasta is cooked, snap the woody end off each asparagus spear and chop finely, reserving the florid heads almost whole for decoration. Stir all the asparagus into the onion/fennel mix along with the crab meat (both white and dark) and white pepper.
Using tongs, transfer the spaghetti into the onion pan along with a cupful (or more) of the cooking water. Combine well. Divide among the plates or bowls, anointing each with a slug of good olive oil and a scattering of parsley.
I call this dessert Caribbean Cream, and use slightly exotic fruit for it. If you’re picnic-minded, then use individual plastic cups or pots, cover each with clingfilm, and produce from the coolbox when ready. Chocolate Swiss roll is great in this, but I confess to enjoying Arctic roll. Prepared supermarket-portions of fresh fruit (mango, melon, grape, kiwi, orange) are ideal.
1 Swiss (or Arctic) roll
330g (11 oz) fresh fruit, or more
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
90g (3 oz) sugar
300ml (11 fl. oz) double cream
2 eggs, separated
Cut the Swiss roll into slices and use it to line the base of a trifle dish, tumblers, or cups (at least six). Splash over the rum (or about one dessert spoon of rum per cup, omitting if intended for children). Dark rum will give a deeper flavour. Scatter the fruit, sliced or chopped as required, over the sponge and then the coconut.
Whisk the cream to very soft peaks, then briefly mix through the egg yolks to combine. Separately, whisk the egg whites and sugar to the stiff stage then fold into the cream mixture. Pour this on top of the fruity sponge and leave for about five hours (even overnight) to let the flavours meld.