crab
crab salad

Despite what many people may think, the delicate, tender, sweet meat from the brown crab is at its absolute best during the cold winter months. That’s because the warm, food-rich waters of summer and autumn leave crabs sated, heavy and full of flavourful meat. I’d recommend picking the meat from the shells yourself – it’s a kind of joy. Everything about the slow preparation is therapeutic and fresh to me. If time is a factor, though (which it often is), a friendly fishmonger should be able to present you with dressed crab of equal measure.

It feels right to have something light and clean in January – it’s like a tonic. Rhubarb’s casting here isn’t merely in a supportive role; its flavour has as much a part to play as the crab itself. Prettily pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb – grown in the dark in heated sheds, then hand-harvested – is knife-sharp yet wonderfully fruity. I think it’s brilliant with all fish, but with crabmeat it’s sensational. The heat from the chilli and the anise of the fennel seeds bind the crab to the rhubarb beautifully – they’re a bridge between these distinctly different but strangely compatible ingredients.

Serves 
4
Ingredients 

3 slim sticks forced rhubarb, cut into 5cm pieces

Finely chopped zest and juice 1 lemon

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and gently

crushed in a mortar and pestle

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

350g thick Greek yogurt

1⁄2 small bunch fresh parsley, leaves

picked and finely chopped

200g white crabmeat

50g brown crabmeat

A few fennel fronds, if available (you could use dill sprigs if you like)

4 slices sourdough

Method 

Heat the oven to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1. Put the rhubarb in a medium baking dish and squeeze over the lemon juice. Scatter over the sugar, half the sliced chilli and half the crushed fennel seeds. Tumble together with 2 tbsp cold water and 1 tbsp of the oil. Cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for 20-35 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft but not broken down. Remove and set aside to cool. Divide the yogurt among 4 plates, spreading it over each. Top with a sprinkling of parsley, the remaining fennel seeds and chilli, the lemon zest and plenty of salt and pepper.
Put both crabmeats in a bowl and mix with a little salt, black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil. Arrange the crab and the rhubarb over the yogurt. Spoon over any juices from the dish, then scatter with fennel fronds if using. Toast the bread, trickle with the remaining olive oil and season with sea salt. Serve alongside the crab and rhubarb.