This is a lovely rich, smooth soup worthy of a very posh dinner party. I actually made this for a weekday lunch. The family don’t realise how lucky they are. This is made with a self-caught crab or you could buy one. I am sure it could also be made with crayfish or lobster shells.
First catch your crab. The one in the photo was an impressive specimen weighing 1.5Kg even without all his claws and legs. To cook a crab like that, despatch it humanely then boil in salty water (30g per litre) for 20 minutes. Cool and extract all the lovely white and brown meat. This recipe uses the shell so you can use the meat in something else! Keep all the shell bits and guts, except the feathery gills or “Dead Man’s Fingers”. Bin them, they can harbour toxic bugs.
To make a crab shell bisque, first make the crab stock. I used the Instant Pot pressure cooker, or you could use a large stockpot on the stove. Some people advise roasting the shells first but I didn’t and the result was still superb.
- Crab shells and bits from one very large or two smaller crabs
- Enough water to just cover (about 1.5 litres)
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 peeled onion
- 1 celery stick
- 1 carrot
- Optional – more herbs: thyme, parsley etc.
Cook in the instant pot for 20 minutes or simmer very gently on the stove for one hour. Allow to cool, then strain the lovely crabby liquid. There is bound to be some grit at the bottom, try not to include that! Now for the bisque. Serves 4 bowls.
Saute very gently in a large stockpot or sucepan to soften. Add
- half a cup white wine (or a dash more!)
- 3 cups crab stock (you will have more – freeze the rest)
- 2/3rds cup of passata or three tablespoons tomato puree and make up the liquid difference with more crab stock.
- 1/3 cup white rice
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add
- 1 cup of cooked prawns – keep a few back for garnish
Cool slightly then blend with a stick blender. Add
- 2/3rd cup of double cream
- 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
- 0.5 tsp salt
Blend again. Reheat very gently so the cream doesn’t separate. Serve, garnished with the reserved prawns and maybe some chopped chives or parsley.
Great for an appetizer for an Indian meal, on their own or even as a side. Serves 3-4 as a starter
- 250g chicken breast, cubed into bite sized chunks
- 1 egg white
- 1tsp garlic paste
- 1 tbs grated fresh or frozen ginger root
- 0.25tsp tumeric
- 1tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 0.5-1 green chilli, seeded and chopped
- 1tbs chopped fresh coriander leaves
- 0.5tsp salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
Mix that lot up and leave for a few minutes while you heat up a pan of oil for deep frying. Warm your oven and have a plate with kitchen towel on handy.
Go back to your chicken and add
- 2tbs gram flour
- 1 tbs rice flour or plain flour
Mix into your marinating chicken. Add a bit more gram flour if necessary to make a sticky coating. When your oil is about 160C, drop pakora individually into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until brown and crispy like the photo abouve. Do this in batches so the pakora don’t clump up and the oil remains hot. Removewith a mesh or slotted spoon and drain on your kitchen towel. Keep warm on the plate in your oven while you fry the remainder.
Great served with a dipping chutney or riata.
There are many, many recipes for chilli-based condiments and part of the fun is experimenting with them, or even combining recipes. One of the biggest challenges is knowing how hot your chillis are, and how many to include. My attitude is – if the jam turns out hot, simply use less of it! A chilli jam that isn’t hot is just….jam. This recipe uses liquid pectin. Alternatively you could use jam-making sugar which includes pectin.
- 4 long (10-15cm) red chillis (or as many shorter ones make up the equivilent) seeds removed.
- 2 red capsicum peppers, seeds and stalk removed.
- 300ml cider or wine vinegar
Pulse in a food processer until finely chopped. Put the mix into a stainless steel saucepan and add
- 800g white (granulated) sugar
- 3 tbs lemon juice
Stir well to dissolve the sugur then boil for ten minutes. Keep stirring gently so it doesn’t catch and burn. It will start to get foamy and rise up so you will need to tweak the heat. Add
Mix in and boil again, until it reaches setting point which is 105C. If there is foam on the surface, scrape this off with a spoon. Test for setting by putting a litle jam on a very cold plate. If the jam sets, you can put it in clean, sterilised jam jars.
If after all that the jam hasn’t set when it cools, don’t get depressed. Firstly wait another 24 hours because sometimes it can be slow to set. If it is still too runny, you can tip the jars back into a saucepan and heat up again, making sure it reaches 105C. If it still doesn’t set, you’ll have to pretend you made chilli sauce.
This makes a lovely tangy soup of the type popular in Turkey and Syria. To vary the thickness of the soup, just play around with the quantity of lentils. This recipe makes enough for four big bowls.
- 1 large onion chopped
- dash of olive oil
Gently fry the onions until transluscent. Add
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- Pinch of chilli flakes
Fry for another couple of minutes. Add
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock
- 250g dried red lentils (more if you like it thick)
Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add
- as many fresh spinach leaves as you can hold in one fist, washed and chopped
- Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
- 1-2 lemons, juice and zest (2 is very lemony!)
Simmer a few minutes to cook the spinach. If you like a smooth soup, zap it with a stick blender. If you like it lumpy, don’t bother. Adjust the seasoning and serve, topped with fried pine nuts, almond flakes, chilli, whatever takes your fancy. Amazing eaten with fresh bread and a tangy goats cheese or feta.
Don’t throw away those trimmings, backbones and heads after you have filleted your catch. Make an amazing fish stock to add depth to any fish soup, pie or chowder.
- Knob of butter or 1tbs oil
- 1 onion chopped
Sweat in a deep pan until the onion is transluscent.
- 1kg fish heads, bones and bits preferably from only white fish like bass, bream, pollack, whiting, plaice.
- 1 litre water
- 1 glass of white wine (or dry cider)
- Bunch of herbs, e.g. 2 sprigs parsely, 2 sprigs thyme, a bay leaf.
- pinch of salt
- Pinch of white pepper
Bring to the boil and simmer 20 minutes. Then pass through a fine sieve into a container for use later. It will keep in the freezer until needed. Max three months for the best flavour, but I have used some a year old and it was still good. Use it for The best seafood chowder
This is even better if you make your own fish stock from the frames of white fish. This recipe is for a substantial soup for four people. We upped the quantities of the solid ingredients and it became a main meal for three. Use a variety of seafood: 350g serves four. We used a salmon fillet, two whiting fillets, a smoked pouting, a handful of prawns, a handful of frozen mussel and a few frozen clams. The inclusion of some smoked fish makes all the difference.
- 4 rashers of bacon
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1tbs oil
Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the bacon and onion until the onion is transparent and the bacon looks cooked.
Stir in. Use more if you like a thicker soup, less if not.
- 600ml fish stock (use a cube if you don’t have your own)
- 250g new potatoes, quartered
Add to your pan, cover and simmer 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
- 300ml milk
- Pinch of ground mace
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Mixed fish fillets cut into chunks
Bring to the boil and simmer for four minutes.
- Shellfish, prawns
- 4 tbs cream
Simmer for another minute. Serve in deep bowls garnished with chopped parsley and with crusty bread on the side. You may need to adjust the seasoning depending on the seasoning in your stock and smoked fish. This was rated 10/10 in a recent family meal.
Very easy and looks amazing. Great for a dinner party starter if you want something that looks and tastes different. The beetroot and cure gives it an earthy, salty, sweet salmony flavour. Allow two days for this, so don’t leave it too late! This makes enough for six people.
Make the cure first:
- 500g raw beetroot
- 250g caster sugar
- 500g salt
- 3g fennel seeds (about a tablespoon)
- half a bunch of tarragon or dill (optional)
Blitz all this in a food processor. If you whizz it finely it will turn to liquid, but no matter.
Put your salmon in a shallow dish. Pour the cure over and cover with cling film. Leave 10 hours in a fridge. Turn the salmon. Leave 20 hours (plus or minus a few hours). The salmon will have turned deep red and gone stiff. Take it out and rinse under a tap. Pat dry with a paper towel. Use or keep in the fridge. To serve, slice thinly at an angle like smoked salmon. Here we served it with a hot smoked salmon pate (made just like mackerel pate); winter root slaw and thyme crackers as a super-posh starter.
These are cooked to crispy first, then smothered (or not). See our other recipe for Buffalo Wings for an alternative. For 1Kg of wings:
- 2 tbs of baking powder
- 1/2 tsp onion or garlic powder
Take a large plastic bag and put the baking powder in it. Pimp it up with the seasonings – you can play around and experiment with what you add at this point.
- 1 kg chicken wings (£2.49 from Tesco)
Cut away wing tips and feed to the dog (they can eat raw chicken bones). Cut through the joint to make two sections per wing. Dry on kitchen paper. Toss in the bag to coat with the seasoned baking powder.
Turn the oven up to 200C (fan). Place the coated winglets on an oiled grill rack placed over a drip tray. You could probably use a cake cooling rack for this. Bake for 50 minutes turning once at mid-point. You might think this is a long time – it is, they will be cooked long before this but it makes them extra crispy. Just watch they don’t burn.
You could use them at this point to dip into sauces but if you want to make fiery finger food, carry on:
- 1 tbs hot sauce (or more)
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 tbs melted butter
Mix, then paint all over the wings, or pour over and toss the wings about to coat.
Now get dipping with spicy wings!
This is very quick and you can make it in an Instant Pot or on the stove – both methods given.
- tablespoon of oil
- 1 onion, chopped
Saute in Instant Pot or gentry fry in the pan until translucent
Chop into florets, slice the stalk and pale leaves. Add to the pot and cook for a minute or two
Add to the pot and stir about
Stir in, cover and cook. Instant Pot Soup setting for 10 minutes or hob for 15-20 minutes until tender.
- 50g blue or cheddar cheese (or vegan cheese/equivalent)
Stir in and melt. Zip with a hand blender and adjust the seasoning, you might need a little salt and white pepper.
This is a really “different” soup that is good for everyday and would stand up for a dinner party starter too.
- 100g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Bunch of sage leaves (about 20)
- 500g parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes
- 2 eating apples, peeled and cut into cubes
- 4tbs oil
Heat your oven to 200C. Reserve a few sage leaves, 1 tbs of oil and 15g of nuts. Toss the rest into and oven tray and roast for 30 minutes until tender and slightly charred.
Remove the sage leaves from the tray and discard. On the stove top, pour the stock into the tray and bubble until the charred bits in the tray have loosened and incorporated into the liquid. Blend until smooth. If it is too thick, add some more stock.
Fry the reserved sage leaves and hazelnuts in oil until the leaves are crispy and the nuts are brown.
- 4 tbs creme fraiche (or vegan alternative)
Serve the soup in bowls with a spoon of creme fraiche and a scatter of nuts and leaves.