One of my earliest memories from childhood is my parents releasing live crabs from lobster pots that had washed up and been left to languish on a beach in Cork. I was aged around 3, and was completely baffled as to why my parents had for some reason chosen to unleash these monstrous clawed creatures in my vicinity, where they were sure immediately nip me with their claws. I didn’t much warm to crabs after that.
During my college years, my favourite restaurant for a special occasion (when someone with more than a student budget was paying) was a place called the Mermaid Cafe. It had a bright interior with big windows looking out over the bustle of Dublin city centre, and served American inspired food like pecan pie and their renowned crab cakes. Sadly, the Mermaid Cafe went the way of the Celtic Tiger, and with it, the best crab cakes in Dublin.
Crab meat is not as easy to find in Ireland as it seems to be in the US, and is pretty damn expensive. When I saw it on special offer a few weeks back, I jumped at the chance to recreate the crab cakes I’d tried years before in the Mermaid. I tried making these the American way, with crab meat only, but ended up with shapeless lumps for cakes and hands with a glove like coating of crab meat. So I caved to the Irish way, with some mashed potato added to give it body. They still taste wonderfully crabby, and are easy to make for the festive season. You could make miniature ones for a party, or this recipe will make 8 reasonably sized starter versions.
- 280g cooked crab meat
- 2 eggs
- 4 chopped spring onions
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- pinch cayenne powder
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 large mashed potato
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 100g breadcrumbs
- Neutral oil e.g. sunflower or vegetable
- 1 avocado, finely diced
- 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- Pinch of smoked paprika
- Pinch of cayenne
- Mix all the crab cake ingredients but one of the eggs and the breadcrumbs together.
- Season well.
- Beat the remaining egg in a bowl.
- Lay the breadcrumbs out on a plate and season well.
- Shape the crab cake mixture and dip in the egg, followed by the breadcrumbs.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To make the salsa, mix all the ingredients and season well.
- Fry in oil over a medium heat until crispy and golden on both sides.
- Serve warm.