Thursday, 15 March 2012


Last Sunday at our  Middle East London brunch club our guest chef James created a dish inspired by one he had eaten on a recent trip to Abu Dhabi. A spiced crab stack with tomato and an array of perfectly balanced sweet, sour and spicy flavours beside a surprisingly sweet and refreshing fennel sorbet. 

The dish was James first suggestion and helped us to decide on a theme involving exotic flavours and spices from The Middle East and Morocco. 
This was such an interesting dish we wanted to provide a recipe, whilst we have aimed to provide you an accurate recipe it does come down to a bit of this and a bit of that to create your ultimate flavour balance.

There was a fair amount of tasting and deciding on a little more spice, a little more lemon or a little more ginger until we were happy with dish.

It seems a powerful dish to serve at brunch but it was enjoyed by all but the two vegetarians at our brunch, actually one of the vegetarians tried it as well ( naughty! )
For an alternative to the crab we made a pearl barley, potato, fennel, mint and lemon stack. We tried to emulate the textures of the crab and reflect the strength of the dish so that it wasn't lost against the fennel sorbet accompaniment. 


For the Fennel Sorbet
This made about 1/2 litre
1-2 fennel bulbs
White wine
5Tbsp caster  sugar (per fennel bulb)
Lime juice to taste

Method for the Fennel Sorbet

Wash a large fennel bulb (or two smaller) and cut into a small dice, retaining the tops for garnish.  Place into a sauce pan and add enough white wine to cover by 1cm. Add 5 tablespoons of sugar per fennel bulb and bring to the boil.  
Reduce the heat to a simmer, loosely cover and cook for an hour.  After an hour the wine should be largely cooked away and the fennel should be nicely squidgy and the strong aniseed notes replaced with a sweet, almost apple like taste.  
Remove from heat and blend the fennel to a fine puree. Adjust the taste with lime juice to add a tart note to the sorbet.  Pass the puree through a sieve to make as smooth a base as possible.  The remaining solids can be blended again and reincorporated to add texture.  
The puree is then ready either to go in your  chilled ice cream maker for 30 minutes or directly into the freezer stirring every 30 minutes for 2-4 hours to help avoid large ice crystals forming.

NB: Having made this a few times now it seems a little temperamental and crumbly when forming scoops or quinels.  It seems to work best when you don't freeze too much in the same container so it defrosts more evenly.  Hot spoons also seems to help. What you can do is form quinnels in advance of freezing or freeze in scoops on a tray if you have room. Make sure you give yourself 10 minutes of thaw time before plating up. 

For the Candied Fennel
This was enough for 16- 20 people
3 Fennel bulbs
4 Tbsp caster sugar
5 Cardamon pods

Method for the Candied Fennel
The trick with this is to try and find a fennel bulb that hasn't had the base trimmed too high as you need the connection across the root to hold the slices together.  Pre-heat your oven to around 100c degrees.  Cut the fennel parallel to the line of the tops into 2mm slices.  
Put a shallow pan of water on to boil adding 4 or 5 tablespoons of sugar and half a dozen cracked cardamon pods.  Poach the fennel slices in the water for 10 minutes then remove and dry with kitchen towel.
Place the slices on a piece of baking parchment on a tray and place in the oven.  The timing and temperature on this can be pretty tricky.  The idea is to dry the slices out a little and then increase the temperature to crisp them.
About 30 minutes at 100c degrees should do for the drying but keep an eye on them in case you have a particularly hot oven.  Once they start to feel drier and slightly sticky rather than wet turn the heat up to 150c, after 10 minutes the slices should brown slightly and start to crisp.  Remove the slices as they brown, larger slices will take slightly longer.

For the crab
For 16 - 20 people
1 medium crabs
3 radishes
White wine vinegar
4 tomatoes
3 Spring onions
1tsp paprika
1 inch piece of ginger
1/2tsp chili paste
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & Pepper
Method for the crab

NB: Having watched Nick "effortlessly" remove all the meat from one of the crabs we bought for this and picked bits of claw out of my hair, I'd suggest using pre-dressed!  
Slice a couple of radishes into rounds and sit in a little white wine vinegar to slightly pickle, this will take about half an hour.  Blanch 4 tomatoes in boiling water to help loosen the skins, peel, remove the seeds and cut into a small dice.  Put the white and brown meat from 2 crabs into a bowl and mix in the tomato, finely chopped spring onions, hot smoked paprika,  grated ginger, chilli paste, and juice of half a lemon. Combine these ingredients and season to taste.

NB: If you have a particularly wet consistency you may want to add a few bread crumbs to get it to hold it's shape on the plate.

To construct:

Place a tbsp of the crab mixture onto the plate, place a chefs ring over and roll it around to create a cylinder.  Place 3 slices of radish on top of the crab.  We used a Japanese ceramic soup on the side to serve the fennel.  Form a quinel or scoop of the sorbet to sit on the spoon.  Rest the candied fennel against the side of the sorbet and then sprinkle with the fennel tops.  Voila!


Chocolate Shavings said...

Love the idea of a fennel sorbet!

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