Devon Crab

Devon Brown Crab (Cancer Pagurus) is stupendously good and arguably the best in the world!  The people of Salcombe in South Devon celebrate this fact each year in May at the Salcombe Crab Festival and it’s all in aid of charity. This year it’s on the Sunday the 6th and we’re going so I’ll update this blog on Sunday and give you a taste. Can’t wait!

There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting by the Devon coast leisurely eating a whole Devon crab with a glass of crisp white wine and all the time in the world – it’s the essence of slow food. These days, the crab sandwich has become hugely popular but I favour the crab savoury. Savouries were little treats served as a final course at dinner to ‘cleanse the palate’ before the bottle of port and the sojourn to the card tables, so popular in the 19th century. I like to surprise my family with savouries before dinner and they go mad for them. Crab toasts are one of the best – a simple dish but a perfect one that allows the crab to shine.

Crab Savouries

Take some good white bread, sliced very thin. Cut off the crusts and cut each slice diagonally to create triangles. Toast until golden brown and crisp  (the best way to do this evenly is on a grill tray in the oven). Butter generously while hot so the butter soaks into the toasted bread. Spread thinly with brown crab meat, then pile generously with white crab meat. Season with salt, pepper and a grate of fresh nutmeg. Serve immediately while the toast is still warm.

Crab fishing has always been a specialty of Devon. In the past families would make their own ‘inkwell’ pots in the winter from willow grown locally along the coast. The pots were baited with fresh fish secured with a wooden skewer and lasted about a year. The men would go out to sea and the women would help sell the catch. The pots are no longer hand-made from willow but the industry is still run by small family businesses who fish sustainably, so go get some crab!

Crab Linguine – add a few fennel seeds and chilli for a bit of kick.

Kitchenalia Cartoons can also be seen in Devon Life Magazine –  the Devon county magazine (UK) offering hundreds of pages of articles and superb photography every month.

 

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Mr Percy Parsnip and his Parsnip Pup

Mr Percy Parsnip and his parsnip pup.

Mr Percy Parsnip and his parsnip pup.

To a palate un-jaded by refined sugar, a parsnip, simply roasted, can be as honeyed as a lollipop, and that is how it was often used in the past – in sweet dishes, fritters and cakes but this native root really is born to be the constant companion of roast beef and is an essential part of ‘all the trimmings’. The parsnip caramelises with salty savour in a way the usurping potato can never hope to achieve.  I think they’re so good I often make parsnips chips as a savoury appetiser before supper. They all go, and pretty darn quick.

Parsnip chips

Salt is essential to parsnips so don’t skimp.  They must be salty enough to counterbalance the caramelised sweetness of the root and thin enough to be crisp. Once cooked, I like to sprinkle them with thyme but it depends on my mood, other complimentary sprinklings that I find good are cumin, nutmeg, garam masala, crushed bay leaves or paprika, all of which go down go down a treat. Add some prosciutto dressed with a squeeze of lemon on the side and you have a starter.

Directions: Peel 6 parsnips and boil them for a few minutes so they soften but remain firm. When done, slice the parsnips lengthways into 8 pieces each so they resemble chips. Dry them in a cloth and then shake them up with some flour, seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. This will give them a crisp coating. Meanwhile heat a large pan (so they lay separately) to smoking with sunflower oil, if you don’t have a big enough pan cook them in batches. Fry them until golden which takes about 5-10 minutes, turning them occasionally with a pair of tongs. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve hot.

Other tasty ways with parsnips

Parsnip and shallot tart tatin with ready roll puff pastry

Mashed parsnip cakes coated with egg and Panko crumbs

Parsnip, puy lentil and watercress salad

Curried parsnip and apple soup

Parsnip and parmesan soufflé