A dish of crab and corn feels like the heady height of summer. I made this plate to cheer myself up, truth be told; there’s nothing ‘wrong with me’ per se, I just feel a bit overwhelmed. Arranging sunny flavours on a plate can go a long way towards lifting my spirits, particularly followed by an hour or two on the sofa with a book. Like a kind of reset button.

I bought a dressed crab for this because cooking and picking one would’ve been too much, and I charred the corn indoors on a griddle pan rather than on the barbecue because I didn’t want the smokiness to overwhelm the crab but honestly, I also couldn’t be bothered with faff.

Rich, salty crab meat and sweet niblets (niblets!) of corn are a wonderful combination and I brought it all together with a sauce of melted butter, harissa and brown crab meat. A squeeze of lime plus its zest and a few wiggly tarragon leaves and this is a very fine and really quite decadent lunch.

There are different directions you could take this in depending on mood – an Old Bay and chilli butter would be fantastic, as would straight up tarragon, or tarragon and chive. Try swapping lime for lemon or grapefruit, or add carbs e.g. small potatoes. It’s a very simple recipe – just a lovely arrangement of good things which has the potential to make you feel very clever and capable.

And yes, I’m feeling much better, thank you.

Charred Corn and Crab with Harissa Butter Recipe

Serves 2 with bread/potatoes/whatever as a main dish, or 4 as a side

1 dressed crab or 1 brown crab cooked and picked – separate the white and brown meat
2 large cobs of corn, husks removed
1 spring onion, white and green parts very finely sliced
A couple of sprigs of tarragon leaves, picked
Juice and zest of 1-2 limes
25g butter
1 tablespoon harissa

Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Rub the corn lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper, then place into the pan. Cook, turning frequently until charred lightly on all sides. Remove and allow to cool, then slice the niblets from the cob.

Gently melt the butter and stir in the harissa and brown crab meat.

Scatter the corn over a serving plate, add the white crab meat and spring onion. You may not want/need all of the spring onion. Drizzle over the harissa butter and follow with a good squeeze of lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust by adding more seasoning or lime juice. Finally, add the tarragon leaves and serve.

Want more crab recipes?

Hot Crab Dip | Crab, Corn and Caviar Tacos | Crab Lasagna | Crab Fried Rice | Louisiana Crab Cakes 

Want more corn recipes?

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters | Sour Creamed Corn | Corn and Kimchi Fritters | Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnet 

 

I remember reading some ‘dieting advice’ once, probably during the ’90’s when I was an impressionable teenager and therefore likely to have been seeking out that kind of drivel. The author – who I imagine now writes articles about baking eggs into the centre of avocados, or runs a ‘cartwheels on the beach’ Instagram account – advised readers ‘never reward your success with food.’ Are. You. Actually. Freakin’. Kidding.

Woman, did ya not know that rewarding oneself with food is one of life’s greatest pleasures? I feel sad that you were not able to get a new job, pass a test or (let’s face it) do something very routine and dull like pay a bill or go to the dentist without promising yourself a fat sandwich afterwards, or a share-size bar of Dairy Milk. How did you reward yourself, exactly? Perhaps a stern rap on the knuckles (good for staying ‘in the moment’) followed by two hours of step aerobics? Buzz off.

When I want to reward myself with food like a normal person I know how to do it properly, which brings me to these crab tacos. We’ve recently enjoyed various successes in this house and wanted to celebrate but we’ve also had some struggles and the logical response to both is the same: good food. If this were a ’90’s multiple choice quiz with absolutely no scientific basis my answers would now reveal that I am ‘C: The Emotional Eater.’ Who isn’t? If you see food as ‘just fuel’ then we are too fundamentally different and I think you meant to click on the link to www.don’tsabotagemy#gains.com.

We had to really work for these as well due to an apparent shortage of masa flour in the south east London area. In the end we bought some in Wholefoods (Picadilly) and as a result made an important discovery which is that the Cool Chili Co. masa flour is WAY easier to make tacos with than this Mexican brand, the one we usually buy. Our tacos often turn out a little crumbly but with the very finely ground Cool Chili Co. stuff they were pretty much perfect. If you’re having the same trouble, give it a go. They have a stall at Borough Market as well as the online shop.

We’d already come up with this recipe a few months back during a test run. The brown meat is mixed with smoky Mexican chillies, topped with a lime-heavy grilled corn salsa, white crab meat, sour cream and then – because why TF not – some caviar. Not the massively expensive stuff you understand but enough to give it a salty kick and make you feel like a boss. Enough to make you feel like you’ve received the reward you deserve for just, like, existing in the world without making a hash of it. If you want to make a hash, of course, then rock on.

Crab, Corn and Caviar Tacos Recipe

You can make this with 1 large, whole crab if you want to cook it yourself but obviously, the amount of meat will vary. I’ve given you the weight of meat here to make things simpler. This makes around 18 tacos.

For the tacos

250g masa flour (masa harina)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the crab

150g brown crab meat
200g white crab meat
1/2 dried Guajillo chilli
1/2 dried Ancho chilli
1/2 Pasilla chilli (obviously, just use one variety if you have one but I happened to have three – or mix it up)

For the salsa

4 corn cobs
1 small red onion, finely diced
Juice of 2 limes
Large handful coriander leaves, chopped

To serve

Sour cream
Caviar

Barbecue the corn cobs until lightly charred on all side. Shave the niblets (NIBLETS!) from the cob and mix with the other ingredients plus some salt. Set aside.

Soak the dried chillies in boiling water for around half an hour, or until softened. Deseed and whizz in a blender with the brown crab meat. Set aside.

To make the tacos, put the flour in a bowl and add the salt. Add 350ml water and bring together into a ball. Cover this and let it sit for 20 minutes. Press on the ball – if it cracks you need to add a bit more water. Do this a tablespoon at a time until it’s soft but not sticky. Divide into approx 30g balls. These instructions I copied from the back of the masa flour packet – they’re very good!

Line a taco press with a greaseproof paper square and place a ball on it. Put another square of paper on top and press.

Heat a dry frying pan or skillet over a medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla in a dry pan until the tortilla begins to release itself from the pan – 20-30 seconds. Flip – sometimes they puff up (desirable), sometimes they don’t. Don’t worry about it. Keep warm wrapped in a tea towel.

Assemble! We did brown meat followed by corn salsa, white meat, sour cream, caviar.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters

When it comes to hangovers I’m sorry to say that I have many points of reference, not that they get any easier. When once it was possible to giddily make your way out into the world after a night on the tiles, it becomes increasingly difficult to even haul your ass out of bed before midday. The still young adult starts off – dare I say it – almost enjoying a hangover, then progresses through various stages of increasing pain before reaching full-blown knuckle-dragging misery.

I have written before that taming the hangover is like dealing with a ferocious beast – you’d better tread carefully because one wrong move and it’s all over. The hangover is something that needs minute-by-minute management, and although I consider myself an expert everyone is different. I am very fussy about food, for example, to the point where things I usually adore, like eggs, cannot pass my lips post-booze. This is a recent development likely to change at any moment. I also can’t stick tea; so where usually I’m a ten cups a day gal, the morning after it’s just rancid tannic bile.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters

This is a recipe for a level 2-3 hangover (out of 5). I say that because it does require you to stand up in the kitchen, mix things together in a bowl and fry the results in a pan. The fritters are excellent, though, because a) they’re fried b) they’ve got corn and sour cream and c) they’ve got habanero sauce and I think we all know that it’s my absolute favourite chilli. Make these, pile them up and eat them in bed while binge-watching Netflix.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters with Sour Cream and Hot Sauce

This makes 15-20 fritters (depending on how large you make them)

2 x 198g cans (pre-drained weight) sweetcorn, drained
140g plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
220ml milk
3 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco Habanero Sauce  (remember you’ll add more at the table/in bed)
1 egg, beaten lightly with a fork
Salt
Oil, for frying (such as vegetable or groundnut)

To serve

Tabasco Habanero Sauce
Lime wedges
Sour cream
Coriander
You could also add some grilled bacon…

Sift the flour into a large bowl with the baking powder. Pour in the milk and mix well to make a smooth batter.

Add the sweetcorn, coriander, allspice, spring onion, Tabasco and egg and season with two large pinches of salt.

Heat a 1cm depth of oil in a heavy based frying pan or skillet and wait until it starts shimmering, but not smoking. Turn the heat to medium-high. Drop a tablespoon of the batter into the oil at a time and flatten it out into a round fritter shape. It will take a few minutes to turn golden on the underside – you can then flip it over and brown the other side.

Be wary as the oil will spit a little and splash as you turn them. Set aside to drain off excess oil on kitchen paper. To serve, add lime wedges, sour cream and more coriander and Tabasco alongside.

This recipe was commissioned by Tabasco. All content was written and created by me and I retain full editorial control. 

 

Hake with Parsley and Wild Garlic Sauce

I often enjoy popping my rose-tinted glasses on and having a look back at the food I grew up with in the 80’s. Perhaps many of you have stories about grannies and apron strings but what I have is memories of things that came in boxes marked Findus or Bird’s Eye. Fond memories. In the wake of the horsemeat scandal I was delighted to trot down memory lane and revisit the Findus Crispy Pancake, which I filled with 100% horse and coated in crumb the colour of cheesy Wotsits. Yesterday, it was the turn of boil in the bag cod in parsley sauce.

I expect many of you remember this delicacy of cod and sauce ready combined inside a flappy plastic bag, which your mum simply plopped into the water and served up 15 minutes later with peas and mashed potato. It was a personal favourite of mine and so we decided to have a bash at recreating it, with some more modern-day high falutin changes, natch.

I’m a big fan of Farmdrop, which is why I had these hake fillets in the fridge, but also why I didn’t have any wild garlic, since it had failed to arrive from their supplier. I thought it would be so lovely in the sauce that I became a touch obsessed with finding some, spending two hours traipsing around local woodland with no luck; in the end, I bought some in Borough Market for the very reasonable price of ten million pounds per kilo.

Hake in Parsley and Wild Garlic Sauce

It’s very simple this recipe. Just make the sauce, cool it a bit and whack it in sandwich bags with the fish. Is it ok to cook things in sandwich bags? Apparently. I wanted to do this recipe so I didn’t ask too many questions. It’s basically like sous vide except sous vide fish is gross and slimy so we just poached it at a slightly higher temperature (using a thermometer). You could, of course, poach it separately or fry and serve with the sauce but really, you’d be letting the team down.

The mash is lumpy yes, thanks for asking. The reason for this is because we poshed it up by doing half spud, half salsify, and the latter broke our crappy potato ricer (because I bought it in Khan’s). What you see there, then, is lovely smooth mash with chopped salsify in it. We also forgot the peas.

All in all, a resounding success.

Hake with Parsley & Wild Garlic Sauce (in the style of Bird’s Eye)

This is actually incredibly delicious and there’s no reason at all for you to stuff up your mash or forget the peas. 

2 hake fillets (sorry, didn’t weigh them)
1 small onion finely chopped
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
550 ml milk
30g butter
40g flour
Small handful parsley, chopped
Small handful wild garlic, chopped
The heaviest duty zip lock freezer bags you can find
You’ll also need a thermometer

Bring the milk to the boil with the onions, bay and peppercorns, then turn off and leave for 10 minutes. Strain.

In a clean saucepan, melt the butter, then add the flour to the pan, stirring constantly until it’s combined into a light brown paste. Slowly add the milk bit by bit, stirring until each addition is incorporated in the sauce. The sauce should coat the spoon, leaving a clean area for a second on the base of the pan after swiping with a spatula.

Cover with cling film, laying the film directly on the surface of the sauce. Leave to cool a bit.

When cool (you just don’t want it too hot), add the parsley and wild garlic and season to taste (it’ll take quite a bit of salt as it’s rich and creamy).

Put one hake fillet in each bag then spoon in the sauce. Bring a large pan of water up to about 40C, then push the open bags gently into the water allowing the water pressure to force the air out of the bags, once the surface of the water is just over the zip lock line, seal the bag. Bring the water up to about 56C and cook on the lowest heat for 15 mins. When ours were done the water was about 64C, so the fish was cooked through and still super moist.

Serve with mash, peas and a heavy dose of nostaglia.

Chipotle Goat Tacos with Sour Creamed Corn

So it turns out that a shoulder of goat goes a reeaally long way – the two of us were eating that thing for a week. As much as it was great braised and stuffed into pitta bread, there are rules about cooking leftovers, most of which involve frying, adding chilli, or plopping a wobbly egg on top.

Tacos are handy for using up leftover roasted meat, which can be chopped and pumped with extra flavour (in this case chipotles in adobo sauce). We’re still getting the hang of making the fresh ones, as you can see. Now now, don’t laugh; we didn’t add enough water to this batch so they came out somewhat thick and raggedy. More practice needed.

You can buy tacos from Mex Grocer if you want the authentic corn jobs – entirely different to those weird, gummy wheat versions. The flavour is amazing, and when made properly, they’re not dry or hard in the slightest. When I went on a taco tour of Tijuana in Mexico last year, I found that most places actually give you two tacos as a bed for the fillings, they’re so floppy and soft.

Chipotle Goat

We sizzled the leftover meat with a mixture of chipotle, ancho, guajillo and arbol chillies, to get some complex smoke and fruit flavours going on. There’s cumin, coriander, garlic, red onion. Look, it’s not a timid recipe, m’kay? The sour creamed corn is just BOSS too, a tangier version of the regular creamed. Dangerous stuff which finds its way into your mouth by the spoonful.

Chipotle Goat Tacos with Sour Creamed Corn

Leftover goat or other roasted meat
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 each ancho, guajillo and arbol chilli, rehydrated and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black pepper, ground together or smashed in a pestle and mortar

Fry the onion in a tablespoon or so of oil and add the garlic and spices. Cook gently, stirring for a few minutes, then add the goat and chillies. Allow to cook, stirring regularly, for around 15-20 minutes, maybe longer depending on the fattiness of your meat. Play it by ear. Season.

For the sour creamed corn:

1 tin sweetcorn (regular size, whatever that is)
25g butter
1 tablespoon flour
75ml soured cream

Melt the butter in a small pan, stir in the flour and blend well. Add the corn, sour cream and salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat untl thick and lovely.

Quick pickled red onions:

Finely slice red onions and mix with three tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar. Leave for an hour or so, stirring every now and then. Makes a great topping on loads of things.

Serve with tacos (available online) plus coriander and lime wedges.

Sweetcorn and Kimchi Fritters

So brunch is a big thing, then. We’re not allowed to go out for breakfast any longer – we must brunch. The Australians are mad for it, with their avocados and endless cups of coffee. In America, they’ve long loved those stacks of impossible-to-finish pancakes dripping in syrup. Why a stack? One of those fluffy facecloths is enough. I had a shock the first time I saw a plate of those arrive, let me tell you, giving the waitress my best, ‘when will the other people be arriving?’ look. She didn’t care, it’s normal. They’re used to picking up the remains and chucking them straight in the bin.

I feel a bit like this about brunch in general, it’s all just too much for the morning. Eggs, meat, bottomless booze and all of the rich things on one plate. Instead of setting you up for the day, this meal can easily send you back to bed. I like to draw the line at a single egg, a couple of bacon rashers and my new secret weapon – the corn and kimchi fritter. Corn fritters are obviously brilliant already (what with them containing corn and all), and kimchi goes really well with their sweetness, adding its own special funky punch of heat and crucially, acidity to lighten things. The drippy egg means it’s enough to fill you up, but not f*ck you up, because we all have stuff we’d like to do on a Saturday morning that doesn’t involve going back to bed, right?

Sweetcorn and Kimchi Fritters

Makes 12 fritters.

140g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
220ml milk
3 spring onions, finely sliced (plus another to serve)
1 x 165g can sweetcorn (drained weight)
150g kimchi, roughly chopped
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Oil, for frying

Bacon and eggs, to serve

Mix the flour and baking powder then whisk in the milk to make a smooth but thick batter. Add the other ingredients (saving 1 spring onion and a little coriander for garnish). Season with salt and pepper.

Heat some oil in a frying pan, a couple of tablespoons to start, you can add more as you go, and drop tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. Flatten them out and cook for a minute or so each side until golden. Set aside on kitchen paper while you cook the others.

Serve with grilled bacon and a poached egg. Scatter with the remaining spring onion and coriander to serve.

Corn Soup

It’s the end of the summer and the corn is going cheap. I bought four cobs for a quid in Peckham yesterday and a frankly quite staggering twelve red peppers for the same. Twelve. Not joking.

This soup only uses one you’ll be pleased to know, along with two cobs and some classic Caribbean flavours: thyme, scotch bonnet chilli and coconut. It’s a hearty mix, thickened with yellow split peas and potato but my version is light compared with other recipes which use pumpkin or squash and other vegetables. I prefer a fresher version that keeps the focus on the juicy bursts of corn. I strip one cob and slice the other so I’m not denied the pleasure of gnawing on it.

The scotch bonnet chilli is left whole and slit lengthways to release just moderate fruity heat and the creamy coconut milk smooths things over. It tastes tropical and most importantly, it celebrates the corn. At that price, it would be rude not to.

Jamaican Style Sweetcorn Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli
150g yellow split peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable)
400ml tin of coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cobs corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 large potato, diced

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil in a pan and add the onion. Let it sweat over a lowish heat for about 8 minutes then add the garlic for a couple of minutes more, taking care not to let it burn. Make a cut down the length of the chilli, but keep it intact and add it to the pan with the split peas, thyme and stock – simmer for 30 minutes.

Prepare the corn by shaving the kernels from one of the cobs, running your knife down the sides, top to bottom. Slice the other one into 2cm thick slices (I nicked that idea from this recipe recently. I also nicked their presentation). Add the corn, coconut milk and potato and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the red pepper for the final 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow the soup to cool a little then remove the chilli, thyme and corn slices (reserve the corn slices) and blend half the soup. If it is still quite hot then make sure not to fill the blender more than half way and hold the lid down because if you don’t you will end up with soup all over your kitchen. It will blast the lid off the blender. Return to the pan and add back the corn slices. Reheat if necessary, adjust the seasoning and serve.