Gill Meller, chef and award-winning food author shares his recipe for a bowl of comforting hot crab soup
“I’ve been making this soup for years, nearly always the same way and never from a recipe. It’s so unbelievably good that I thought I’d better note down all the things I put in it.
Essentially, it begins with crab and ends with crab. But then there’s cream and thyme and cider brandy…”
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large knob butter
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled and diced
• 2 celery sticks, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, grated
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 thyme sprigs
• 1 good-sized tarragon sprig
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 small star anise
• 1/2 glass white wine
• 250g tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or 250g tinned chopped tomatoes
• 1.2 litres crab stock
• 75ml double cream
• 1 small glass cider brandy
• black pepper
For the crab stock:
• 2 picked brown or spider crab shells, including legs and body
• 2 fresh flat-fish frames
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
• 1 small bunch thyme
• few parsley stalks, (optional)
• 1-2 garlic cloves, bashed
1 To make the crab stock, bash the crab shells to break them up into pieces and place them with all the other stock ingredients into a large pan with 2 litres water.
2 Bring to a simmer over a medium–high heat. Cook gently for 1 hour, using a ladle to skim away any froth that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and cool, then pass through a fine sieve and set aside. You should end up with about 1.2 litres or so of stock.
3 To make the soup, put the olive oil and butter in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. When it’s bubbling away, add the onion, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and tarragon.
4 Cook, stirring regularly, for 4–5 minutes. Add the paprika, fennel seeds and star anise and cook for a further 1 minute, then add the wine and chopped tomatoes. Stir well to combine and cook for a further 4–5 minutes.
5 Add the crab stock, and bring up to gentle simmer. Cook for 25–30 minutes, then remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool for 20 minutes.
6 Purée the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, until smooth (you could use a hand blender in the pan, if you prefer – make sure you get a smooth consistency, though).
Pass the soup through a sieve set over a clean pan. You may need to push it through with the back of a spoon or ladle.
7 Return the soup to the heat and bring to a very gentle simmer. Stir in the cream and the brandy, then season with salt and black pepper to taste.
8 Serve the soup in warmed bowls. You can finish it with a swirl of cream if you like, some cracked black pepper, and a little dressed crab meat – or, as shown here, a cracked crab claw.
Recipe courtesy of Gill Meller, extracted from Gather