A Cromer crab, Virginia

In summer a brown crab, a Cromer crab, is delicious all by itself. A squeeze of lemon, a turn or two of black pepper, that’s all you need. In winter, concentrate on garlicky hot crab with chili and cilantro. Keep a dressed crab in the freezer so that you can fix this in no time, whenever you like.
(Cooking for one requires this – some of your favourite things, never too far away.) But in autumn there are sweet, fat tomatoes, shiny romano peppers, courgettes that crunch, and all from near at hand. These flavours are mild. Still, they mingle well with crab.

  • Ingredients: One large crab (I used to dig out white chunks with the proper instrument but I don’t quite have the heart for it anymore – I buy dressed crabs instead). As for the rest, one young green courgette, one red onion, a pepper of some sort, a small bowl of tomatoes, and a branch or two of basil leaves.
  • Method: Slice your onion and the courgette. Chop up your tomatoes and pepper. I peel the onion. Otherwise, I leave the skins on; you might rather remove them. Different shapes and colours of tomatoes please me best; you might favour uniformity. Sprinkle everything with basil, olive oil and a smidgeon of salt. Leave it all to wait in a bowl for a while. Then, when you have become impatient, drop the vegetables into a warm pan. When everything is steaming gently, and the peppers and courgettes have begun to melt into the tomatoes, fold your crab into the mixture.

Long thinnish pasta takes to this sauce. Spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, pappardelle, they’re fine. Anything is fine, really. Just boil your pasta until it is tender but not too squidgy, then strain it. Gently tip the pasta into the crab sauce. Stir it around, coating the strands of pasta. And there it
is – ready to go into a bowl and be eaten. What you put on the top depends on you. Here, I’ve scattered a bit of chopped rosemary, but a few slivers of baby spinach are always nice. Parsley’s good too.

I shan’t claim that true Cromer crabs are the best in the world. They might not compare with the blue crabs of the Chesapeake Bay, I haven’t decided. But I’d relish them while they’re still here if I were you.

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