Fresh brown crab is one of my all-time favourite things to eat, although I tend to save it for special occasions, that way it remains a proper treat. Usually, I like it prepared simply. Some good toast, a spoonful of garlic mayonnaise and a glass of chilled white wine is all you need on a bright summer’s day. Later on in the autumn, I look for warmer, richer and more comforting ways to serve it. Cue this crab mac ‘n’ cheese!
- 400g macaroni
- 50g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- 50g plain flour
- 500ml whole milk
- 200ml of double cream
- 50g mature cheddar
- 50g Parmesan or Pecorino
- 1 small bunch of dill, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon, zest
- 200g of fresh crab meat (white and brown meat)
- A handful of coarse white breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the macaroni. Cook until just tender. Drain, refresh and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan, and when it’s bubbling add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the flour and stir well.
- Stir occasionally while it’s cooking, then gradually whisk in the milk until you have a smooth white sauce. Continue to cook the sauce, stirring for a few minutes until it thickens.
- Now stir in the cream, the cheddar cheese and half the Parmesan. Stir well until it’s all melted.
- Now add the dill, mustard, lemon zest, crab meat and plenty of salt and black pepper to taste. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Combine the cooked macaroni with the crab and dill sauce and tip into a lightly buttered deep 26cm rectangular dish.
- Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the remaining Parmesan, the olive oil and a little salt and pepper and tumble together.
- Scatter the topping over the macaroni and place under a preheated grill to bake for 6-10 minutes or until the pasta is piping hot in the middle, bubbling around the edges and golden on top.
When it comes to the crab I like to use two thirds delicate white meat, which tends to be found in the legs, and one third rich brown meat, which can be found in the body. Sometimes, I like to pick the crab myself, it’s a rewarding, slow paced process, but a good fishmonger should be able to get hold of freshly picked crab meat for you if time is in short supply.
Make sure your macaroni is cooked properly – if you drain it while it is too al dente, it has a tendency to take up all the sauce as it’s finishing cooking under the grill.
If crab isn’t your thing – don’t worry! You can make an equally delicious variation on this recipe using steamed leeks and sautéed mushrooms instead. They both go wonderfully with fresh dill.