Brown crab custard with asparagus + samphire salad

This recipe features in the June/July edition of Hampshire Life magazine with wine matches from The knackered Mother’s Wine Club.

Crab and asparagus is one of my favourite flavour combinations in early summer. Savoury custard might seem a bit unusual, but it really shows off the crab’s flavoursome brown meat. It’s voluptuously cool and smooth – perfect for scooping into your mouth with hot toast or as a dip for baby new potatoes. Here I’ve teamed it with a sprightly shaved asparagus salad.

The saltiness of the samphire and the acidity from the lemon segments should provide enough natural seasoning, but give it a taste and decide for yourself. This is one of those chefy dishes that belies how easy it is to make. Just the job for celebrating the return of al fresco entertaining.

Brown crab custard with asparagus + samphire salad

Serves 4

  • 150 g brown crab meat
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ tsp lemon zest, finely grated
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

For the salad:

  • 100 g samphire
  • 200 g asparagus
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp top quality olive or rapeseed oil
  • 100 g white crab meat
  1. To make the crab custard, put the brown crab meat, double cream, egg yolks, lemon zest and nutmeg in a small saucepan with a generous pinch of salt. Stir over a medium-low heat until the mixture starts to thicken (70°C if you have a thermometer). If you hear that “thlup” noise that suggests the mixture at the bottom is thinking about simmering, take the pan off the heat and keep stirring.
  2. When it thickens, pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl, then put the base of the bowl in a sink of cold water and stir for a minute or two to bring down the temperature a bit.
  3. Divide the custard between four glasses or small dishes and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. To make the salad, blanch the samphire in boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge into cold water. Drain well and blot dry with kitchen paper.
  5. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. Cut the top and bottom off the lemon, then slice away the rest of the peel. Cut out each segment, leaving the membrane behind like the pages of a book. Cut the lemon segments into small pieces.
  6. Toss the samphire, asparagus, lemon and any collected juice with the chopped cherry tomatoes and oil. Cover and chill.
  7. Just before serving, spoon the asparagus salad on top of the custard pots and finish with a generous spoonful of white crab meat.

Buying crab

Great Solent Seafood is part of the Wildlife Trust’s Secrets of the Solent project. Their advice when buying crabs is to make sure they are at least 13 cm in length and to avoid buying just the claws, as these are sometimes removed from live crabs. Visit for more information and to find your closest supplier of sustainable Solent crab.

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