I’m usually a thrifty cook although my husband, who (bless him) does the household accounts and gets to see my shopping bills, might not agree. Once in a while, though, you have to push the boat out and I have to confess that when it comes to two of my favourite ingredients – seafood and asparagus – I go a bit wild.
Join me and throw caution to the winds: this luxurious recipe combines crab, crayfish and asparagus with another passion of mine, fresh pasta. I don’t get to eat pasta very often as He Who Does The Accounts isn’t keen. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down.
We’re lucky because we have asparagus growing in armfuls in the garden. The crab meat and crayfish were a bit pricey, but you can skip the crayfish tails if you like, although they do add a toothsome bite.
Most recipes for crab lasagne only use the white meat, which I find puzzling because the brown has the most flavour. Maybe it’s a texture thing. Mix and match according to your personal preferences.
This is a sort of open lasagne and I think fresh pasta is best here. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, you can find it ready made in good supermarkets. Dried will work at a pinch, it just won’t be quite as light.
This post owes a great deal to a recipe in Galton Blackiston’s fabulous Hook Line Sinker, the best and most visually beautiful seafood book I’ve seen this year. My apologies to Galton for messing with a perfectly good recipe. You use what you have.
Seafood and Asparagus Lasagne
1 dressed crab, brown and white meat, picked over for any stray bits of shell
100g ready-cooked and peeled crayfish tails
4 large good-quality tomatoes or a double handful of cherry tomatoes
12-16 asparagus spears (+ optionally 6 more to garnish)
3 lasagne sheets, halved and cooked (if you use dried lasagne, halve after cooking)
For the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sliver of lemon peel (no pith)
25 ml white vermouth (or dry white wine)
120 ml double or whipping cream
20g Parmesan, finely grated
Salt and a grind of fresh white pepper
To serve: lemon quarters
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Lightly oil a baking tray.
Cut the lasagne sheets in half horizontally and wrap in a damp tea towel to stop them from drying out.
Snap off the woody end of the asparagus and cut the spears a few centimetres longer than the width of the pasta sheets.
Slice the tomatoes fairly thickly and place in a roasting tin. Toss with a little olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and arrange in a single layer.
Roast in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes to intensify the flavour, then remove and set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small pan and fry the shallot until softened. Add the strip of lemon peel and vermouth and cook until reduced by half. Now add the cream and Parmesan, bring to the boil again and simmer for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve into another pan and check the seasoning.
Pick over the crabmeat to make sure it doesn’t contain any shell and place in a bowl with the crayfish tails. Stir in two tablespoons of sauce, cover and set aside. Put a lid on the rest of the sauce to stop a skin forming and keep warm.
To save time and energy we’re going to cook the asparagus and pasta in the same pan, but separately. So bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the asparagus spears. Simmer for about three minutes, until cooked but still crisp. Carefully fish them out, drain well, toss with a little melted butter and keep warm.
Bring the pan of water back to the boil, add the lasagne sheets and cook for about three minutes (for fresh pasta) or until cooked but still al dente. Drain well, season with salt and pepper and add a little olive oil to stop them sticking together.
Lay two sheets in the oiled baking tray. Top each with a quarter of the seafood mixture, then a few slices of roast tomato, then a neat line of three or four asparagus spears. Place another pasta sheet on top and repeat the layers of filling. Top with a final lasagne sheet and spoon the remaining sauce over the two stacks.
Place in the top of the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, until bubbling and beginning to brown. Serve straight away, garnished with more asparagus, if you like. A squeeze of lemon sharpens a rich dish.