When asparagus is at its best in the UK, so are the prized male ‘cock’ crabs and it makes perfect sense to pair these two delicacies. The result is magic and one of my all-time favourites. I finish this simple dish with a drizzle of emerald green seaweed oil, which I make from the gutweed we gather around the beaches close to the restaurants. If you find it hard to get hold of, make a parsley or chive oil following the same method instead.
Serves 4 as a starter
250g white crabmeat (from a 1.5kg freshly cooked crab)
Olive oil for cooking and serving
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 litre vegetable stock
600g asparagus, woody parts removed, thinly sliced
300ml double cream
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the seaweed oil
2 large handfuls of gutweed, thoroughly washed and picked
A large handful of spinach leaves
500ml sunflower oil
To prepare the seaweed oil, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the seaweed and spinach and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into a bowl of iced water to cool. Drain thoroughly and squeeze out all excess water. Tip into a blender, add the oil and blend thoroughly. Transfer to a bowl or jug, cover and refrigerate until needed.
To make the soup, heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the shallots and potato and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the potato is cooked.
Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Meanwhile, set a bowl (large enough to hold the soup) over another bowl filled with ice. Pour the cream into the soup, bring back to the boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a blender, let cool slightly, then blitz until smooth. Pour the soup into the bowl (over ice) to cool it quickly.
When the soup is cold, cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve. Chill 4 soup bowls too.
When ready to serve, check the white crabmeat for any fragments of shell or cartilage. Divide most of the crabmeat between the chilled soup bowls, holding a little back for the garnish. Season the crabmeat and add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Give the soup a good stir and check the seasoning again. Share the soup equally between the bowls and top each one with some crabmeat. Finish with a drizzle of seaweed oil.
Everyday Seafood by Nathan Outlaw (Quadrille) photography © David Loftus