Sunday, January 15, 2006

A pie with crabs

I woke up at about 10 this morning, and wandered groggily to the kitchen, whereupon my mother started assaulting me with information…

Mum: Sarah! Daniel’s going to some Brazilian thing tonight.
Me: Huh?… what… what?
Mum: I dunno what he’s doing,… it’s a dancing samba thing or something… ask him, ask him!
Me: He can’t go out… we’re having crab pie!

I then walked into the lounge room, slightly more awake, to find Daniel at the computer…

Me: What’s this Brazilian thing Mum’s talking about?
Dan: Oh yeah, Alissa from work invited us to go tonight…
Me: But I’m cooking dinner! I told you already! Wait, what exactly is happening?
Dan: I don’t know, she’s got to call me back…

I went to watch TV for a bit, and then went back to Daniel.

Me: Dan, what are we doing?
Dan: Ok, Alissa called back. There’s this Brazilian festival thing on at Fed Square, we can go whenever, it goes on until 9 tonight.
Me:... outraged... WHAT!? 9 o’clock!! You know I'm cooking dinner, Daniel! You can’t just go out and say “oh yeah we’ll be back at 9" and think that dinner will just magically be ready”. These meals don’t just HAPPEN, you know! They take time, they take planning!
Dan: Yeah, but Alissa has to be at work at 6 tonight, so we’d leave the city at 5:30 anyway.
Me:... slightly less outraged... Ooooh...well that’s ok. Um... can you take me to the supermarket now?
Dan: Yes!

And this menu, from Weekend Lunch, is what I had planned for dinner.


241. Crab & Saffron Tart
242. St. John’s Salad
243. Baked Caramel Apples

You may remember that my father and I cooked the crabs and picked the meat ourselves not too long ago.

So today, while Daniel was getting changed to go to the supermarket, I started off the pastry for the crab pie – putting flour and cubes of butter on a plate and stashing it in the freezer. Then we went to the supermarket to pick up all the remaining ingredients for dinner. After we came home, I put the butter and flour in the processor, pulsing it until it looked like breadcrumbs, adding an egg yolk and some iced water. Once it all came together, I pressed it into a flat disc, covered it with glad wrap and shunted it in the fridge. While it was resting for its specified 20 minutes, I tidied up the kitchen a bit. I was rolling out the pastry and lining the tart tin when our friends arrived. You can leave the pastry-lined tart tin in the fridge until you need it, which is what I did.

We ended up coming home at around 6:20pm, having picked up an extra dinner guest on the way (Hi Tim!). I figured that an extra person was easy accomodatable seeing as the pie is supposed to feed 8, and I'd cleverly bought 5 apples instead of 4.

The next step in making the pie is blind-baking the case. Last week, I bought some proper ceramic pie weights (no more rice or dried beans for me, thank-you!), and was very excited to break them in.

Pie weights - I wonder if using these will make my pie stronger...

pie weights in action

So you cook the covered, weighted-down pie for 15 minutes at 200C, then uncover it and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Verdict on the pie weights: they rock! They're heaps more effective than rice or dried beans, due to their higher density.

While the pastry cake is baking, you can get on with the filling. The first layer of filling is a tomato sauce, which you make by simmering a tin of tomatoes with some garlic, a bay leaf and thyme. When it's thickened, you spread it into the pastry case.


The next layer consists of saffron-infused double cream (just heat a few spoons of the cream in a saucepan with saffron threads and let it steep before re-adding it to the rest of the cream), mixed with egg yolks and the crab meat. Normally I'm very good at being frugal and not over-filling my pie cases, but considering the expense of all the ingredients (double cream, eggs, crab meat), I didn't want to waste a drop and chucked the whole lot in. Also, looking at the ingredients list, I'm sure you'll appreciate why my dad rescheduled his cholesterol test from the day after the crab pie to the day before the crab pie!

raw filling

The pie needs to cook for about half an hour. After this, you're supposed to give it an hour to cool to its "paradisal, slightly baveuse best". Well, seeing as I'd only come home at 6:30pm, it was already 8:15 when the pie came out of the oven, and like hell I was going to wait for an hour! I just chucked it into the fridge to speed the cooling process while I set the table and prepared the salad and pudding.

Now, the baked caramel apples. This recipe is simplicity itself. You just fill some cored apples with butter and light muscovado sugar, pour some lemon juice and calvados into the dish, and bake them for 50 minutes. I put them in the oven straight after I took the crab pie out.

apples ready for oven

The St. John's salad is a mixture of flat-leaf parsely leaves (unchopped), finely sliced red onions and capers, barely dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

We ate our dinner outside to enjoy the balmy summer evening.


crab & saffron tart

st john's salad

one slice

I must say, my pie went down an absolute treat! I think it was a bit warmer than Nigella would have intended, but still delicious. All the elements complemented each other perfectly, and I truly believe that it was worth it to cook and pick the crabs ourselves - it had a fresh, delicate taste and texture, which was clearly evident, and not lost in he creamy-eggy mixture. And despite all the seemingly heavy ingredients, it was not "rich and odoriferous" at all. On the contrary, it was dangerously easy to eat. I was hoping to have some leftovers, but the 5 of us wolfed down my pie easily, and could have gone for more had it been on offer.

We finished eating at about 8:50, and the apples finished cooking shortly after. Mum, Dad and Daniel had planned to go out and see the 9:20pm Good Night and Good Luck, which left us with little time to eat the (still searingly hot) apples. So I decided that they should go out and see their film, while the apples sat cooling in the kitchen. Nigella says they can be left out for a while anyway, so I wasn't worried.

cooked and cooling

Tim, however, had to go home at this time, so I packed him an apple in a bowl in an ice-cream container to take home with him.

Tim’s package

After everyone left, I put the remaining apples in a separate bowl, and poured the sauce from the baking dish (see below), into a saucepan, put the lid on, and left it on the turned-off stove.

apples, sauce

Now I'm just waiting for them to come home so we can eat them!


Randi said...

the pie looks lovely. How was the salad? I never really thought of eating parsely as a salad.

Sarah said...

Hey Randi,

Thanks! The salad's pretty good, it's refreshing compared to the pie. I often eat parsley as a salad leaf; it's good in tabbouleh. Also, I like Nigella's chicken, almond and parsley salad (Forever Summer), which I've made quite a few times.

It's nicer if you go for young, soft parsley instead of the older, tough and fibrous stuff.

xox Sarah

Lotta said...

Mmm, the pie looks delicious. I have to make it sometime. I hope your family enjoyed the film - I saw it a couple of days ago and thought it was very good. :)

plum said...

The pie does look absolutely scrumptious! I cooked crab on the weekend too, but it was nothing as refined as this!