Vodka and tonic soft shell-crab with saffron aioli and seasonal salad

Vodka and tonic soft shell-crab with saffron aioli and seasonal salad

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Soft-shell crabs are surprisingly easy to cook at home because almost all the crab can be eaten saving lots of preparation time.


For the vodka and tonic soft shell crab
  • 1 tbsp fresh yeast
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar
  • 175ml/6fl oz tonic water
  • 200g/7oz plain flour
  • 25ml/1fl oz vodka
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 8 soft-shell crabs
For the saffron aioli
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 250ml/9fl oz white wine
  • 2 medium free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • 125ml/4fl oz rapeseed oil
  • ½ tsp saffron, soaked in 25ml/1fl oz hot water
  • 1 lemon, juice only (to taste)
For the seasonal salad
  • 25g/1oz bull’s blood salad leaves
  • 25g/1oz lamb’s lettuce
  • 2 heads Little Gem lettuce, leaves separated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped, to garnish

Preparation method

  1. For the vodka and tonic soft shell crab, preheat a deep fat fryer to 190C/370F. (CAUTION: do not leave unattended. Hot oil can be dangerous.)

  2. Mix the yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl until well combined. Pour in the tonic water and whisk in the flour, vodka and vinegar. Set aside to ferment – it is ready to use when the mixture starts to bubble.

  3. Dip the crabs in the batter and place in the deep fat fryer for 3-4 minutes, turning two or three times, until golden-brown and crisp. Carefully remove the crabs from the hot oil using a slotted spoon, place on a plate lined with kitchen paper and season with salt.

  4. For the saffron aioli, place the garlic and white wine in a pan and cook for a few minutes. Drain and reserve the garlic.

  5. Place the egg yolks in a food processor, add the vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt. Blend until smooth, then with the motor running, gradually add the oil in a slow trickle until the mixture resembles mayonnaise. Add the saffron and garlic and blend to combine. Add lemon juice to taste.

  6. For the seasonal salad, place all the leaves in a large bowl and mix. Place the oil, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk. Pour over the salad and mix.

  7. To serve, place the crab on serving plates with the salad next to it and the saffron aioli in a small dish. Scatter the spring onions over the crab.

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James Martin recipes from Saturday Kitchen

Less than 30 mins preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Serves 4