This recipe I tried a couple of months ago and thought it so good, it should make an appearance as the fish course in my pop-up restaurant earlier in the month. The recipe has been lifted from a pamphlet by Elizabeth David called English Potted Meats and Fish Pastes. You can find the pamphlet in her anthology An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (a book any interested cook worth their salt should own). Ms David honourably adapted old recipes and updated them for the contemporary population. They still hold up today, I take some pride in taking up her baton – via Jane Grigson – albeit on a small scale, in showing that these dishes need to be brought back and celebrated. They are so different from the nasty little pots found on our supermarket shelves.
For this recipe you need to start with a large 2 pound crab– ask your fishmonger in advance to bagsy you a large, hefty-clawed male for you. If such a thing is not available, buy 2 smaller hen crabs. At home, dip into your toolbox for a hammer and root out your lobster tools (or alternatively a nutcracker and skewer) and get to work picking and scooping the meat from the crab, keeping the brown meat in separate pots from the white. It’s worth mentioning that you can buy the tubs of pre-picked crabmeat, but the result will not be anywhere near as delicious.
How do you pick a crab of its meat? This excellent walk-through guide from Channel 4 is very good. One day I’ll write my own, if I ever get round to it!
Season the crab meats with salt, black pepper, mace, nutmeg and Cayenne pepper, as well as a good squeeze of lemon juice. Now layer up the two meats in a single mould such a stoneware pot, or several smaller ones. Start with half of the white meat, then the brown and then the remainder of the white. Pack it down firmly and pour over melted slightly-salted butter; you will need around half a pound of butter altogether. Griggers here recommends Lurpak, which eats much better in this sort of dish.
Bake in a ban Marie at 150⁰C for 25-30 minutes. Remove and pour over some clarified butter. Allow to cool and store in the fridge covered with foil or clingfilm. If you put a good thick layer of butter over the crab, it will keep for several days. Don’t forget to take it out of the fridge a few hours before you want to eat it.
I served the potted crab simply with spelt bread and a lemon wedge.
#378 Elizabeth David’s Potted Crab. Absolutely delicious, the rich butter and creamy crab meat are suitably sharpened by the warming spices and lemon juice. This must be the best of the potted meat and fish dishes in the book and I cannot sing its praises high enough. 10/10