“I’ve brought you a monster from the deep,” grinned Spencer as he arrived at my door with the biggest crab I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Honestly, it was the size of my head and we all know how big that is.
We ate Thai-spiced crab cakes the first night and this tart the following day and, as there are only two of us, the day after as well. There was still some brown meat left for a bruschetta topping and the shell went into a stock for future fish soups. It earned its fairly hefty price tag.
This recipe is inspired by one from Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston, a man who knows and loves his seafood. Made with really fresh crab meat like this, it’s a knockout. Try it with a simple green salad and/or a cucumber salad (I dressed a tangle of shavings with rice vinegar and little mirin and mixed in a few snipped chives). Best of all would be asparagus, but the cold spring has set back our crop.
You will need a deep flan tin with a removable base. Mine is 23cm in diameter and 3.5 cm deep.
Crab and Leek Tart
320g shortcrust pastry
4 or 5 baby leeks or 1 large one, washed, trimmed and finely sliced
A knob of butter and a splash of oil
450g white and brown crab meat (2:1 ratio)
300ml double cream
3 small eggs or 2 larger eggs and 1 yolk
30g parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and white pepper
A small grating of nutmeg
Turn the oven to 180C/160 fan/360F/Gas Mark 4 and put in a baking sheet to heat up.
Roll out your pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. Line the flan tin, but don’t trim the edges yet. Chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
Heat the butter and oil in a deep frying pan and gently cook the sliced leeks, sprinkled with a little salt, until they are soft but uncoloured. Allow to cool.
Prick the bottom of the pastry case, crumple up some baking paper, straighten it out again and line the inside of the flan, filling it with baking beans or rice and making sure you fill all the nooks and crannies.
Slide onto the baking sheet and blind bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and baking beans and cook for a further five minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Trim the edges level with the top of the tin.
Pour the cream into a jug and gently whisk in the eggs. Stir in the parmesan and white crab meat and season with a little salt, white pepper and a rasp of nutmeg.
Spread the brown crab meat over the base of the pastry case and scatter the leeks evenly over the top. Take it over to the vicinity of the oven before carefully pouring in the custard. (Carrying a filled tart across the kitchen and then tripping over the cat falls into the category of Very Bad Ideas.)
Put back on the baking sheet and cook for 50 minutes or until just set. Allow the tart to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the tin to a serving plate.