Simon Hopkinson’s perfect devilled crab recipe

An ideal starter? A sumptuous light supper? However you eat it, few things are more decadent than devilled crab, as you'll understand after reading Simon Hopkinson's mouthwatering recipe.

This makes a rich first course or a supper dish with a sprightly watercress and spring-onion salad, say. You may also like to serve it with slices of sourdough bread, toasted and spread with a parsley-and-garlic butter.

Simply purée together 100g softened butter, two crushed garlic cloves, two handfuls of parsley leaves and a little seasoning (I use one of those mini food processors). Whizz to a smooth, gorgeous green. Any leftover butter may be frozen for another time.

Recipe: Devilled Crab (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • A thick slice of butter, plus a little extra
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little sea salt
  • A scant tablespoon of flour
  • 100ml milk
  • 25ml dry vermouth
  • A generous slug of pastis (Pernod or Ricard)
  • A scant tablespoon of crème fraîche
  • 2tspn Dijon mustard
  • Half a tablespoon snipped chives
  • Half a tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • Half a teaspoon cayenne pepper or, even better, piment d’espelette
  • 50g brown crabmeat
  • 200g white crabmeat
  • 2 rounded tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Method

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the garlic. Heat through for no more than a minute or two, until slightly sizzling. Stir in the flour and continue to cook together quietly for a further couple of minutes.

Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until very thick, then stir in the vermouth, pastis and crème fraîche. Cook for a little longer, until creamy and unctuous.

Now, thoroughly stir in the mustard and herbs with the cayenne pepper and a large pinch of salt and set aside to cool for five minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/gas mark 5.

Using the extra butter, lightly grease two individual, shallow porcelain gratin dishes — the ones that come with ‘ears’ are ideal.

Divide the brown crabmeat between the dishes, spreading it into a thin layer with the back of a spoon. Loosely stir the white meat into the cooled sauce and spoon this over the brown meat, spreading it right to the edge of the dishes. Evenly sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake until it’s bubbling around the edges, with the surfaces nicely blistered here and there.

Serve at once, together with the parsley/garlic toasts, if you wish. A squeeze of lemon, at table, is never a bad idea in my book.