Monday 5 October 2009

Salcombe Crab Risotto on a Campfire

I’m so pleased we’ve stumbled across Salcombe. We liked it so much earlier in the summer that we returned with Edwin and Anna who brought a beautiful old Alfa Romeo to the party and Nick and Harriet who are experts in fishing and outdoor living. So between the 6 of us we were well equipped for a long weekend of camping.

Anna and Edwin Alpha

Higher Rew campsite nestles South West of Salcombe, protected from the sea by Bolthead which is renowned for lending itself to spectacular walks. Cowie and I arrived early and secured a prime spot at the top of the hill, hidden from all the other tents and blessed with a view that would have made Thomas Hardy, hard.

Thanks to some local knowledge, sent our way by Chris Smith (who I don’t think is the outed Labour Minister), we knew to avoid the fishmonger in the centre of Salcombe and instead to pay a visit to Yeoward and Dowie which is a boatyard on Island Street. Not only are they experts in mending and chartering boats, but they sell live lobsters and crabs!

Local shellfish sign


We soon found the crab and lobster tank and were mesmerized by the shell clad beauties that jostled around like passengers in a Ryan Air queue. Lobster tentacles occasionally breached the water like U-boats erecting their periscopes.

Lobster basket

Crab tank

In order to feed 6 we decided to buy a couple of large crabs which they very kindly cooked for us and kept in the fridge until we returned from our mackerel fishing trip.

Crab scales

We returned back to our campsite with the sun beginning to think about turning in for the day and set about making what turned out to be a fantastic crab risotto using our cataplana pan.

First of all Edwin and Nick did a phenomenal job of picking as much meat out of our crabs as possible with the help of a large screw driver and Cowie’s tweezers!

Crab meat picking

We then made stock with the shell, with a vegetable stock cube lobbed in for good measure as well.

Crab stock and veg

Whilst the stock was bubbling away we also grilled a bunch of Cowie’s favourite vegetables which we added into the risotto towards the end to add some extra charry interest.

Chef Brown

Once the stock was ready we set it aside along with the veggies and nestled the cataplana into the hot coals. Once it was up to heat we fried 2 onions along with some garlic until soft. Then we poured in a bag of Arborio rice and listened to it crackle. This has to be one of my favourite sounds. It’s so reassuring and is synonmysous with being able to enjoy cooking at a leisurely pace. It’s a million miles from the clack of a toaster or ping of a microwave. It’s the sound of cooking for pleasure.

Once the sizzling had died down we threw a good glug of white wine and felt our faces dampen and numb slightly with wine fumes. Once the wine had whooshed away we then ladled in the crab stock and stirred, religiously, for the next hour.

Risotto stirring

Cataplana on the fire

As the heat waned we found that clamping the lid of the cataplana shut worked brilliantly to get the risotto bubbling again. After 45 minutes it had swelled and thickened, taking on a creamy quality that was impossible to see in the dark, but you could sense from the feel.

At this point we mixed in the char grilled peppers and aubergines before adding half of the crab meat. Plenty of salt, pepper and a nudge of chilli helped to add some seasoning. Spinach added colour. And a lashing of crème fraiche and knob of butter added gloss and luxury. We thhen added a topping of the remaining crab meat to each portion and a sprinkle of parsley.

We ate it in the pitch dark, in a scene reminiscent of an outdoor Dans le Noir, and sat back in bliss. Given the context it is without question the most memorable risotto I’ve ever eaten or cooked and has to go down as one of the year’s main highlights.


Food Urchin said...

Yes the stiring, you have to be religous about that.

Very impressed with your efforts Jonathan, I've never considered cooking risotto on the bbq. And eating in the dark must heighten the senses, well smell and taste at least.

Do we have an heir apparent to Floyd?

Food Urchin said...

Of course that should be stirring

Browners said...

@Food Urchin - What an honour! Many thanks indeed for your kind words. Let's hope I don't pickle myself! And I can highly recommend dining in the dark. Makes presentation a lot easier!

Anonymous said...

Cooking Risotta on a Campfire.. that is a complete madness idea but such a great one! I really like you're way of trying new way of cooking, away from the traditional ways. I thnk you really do something about it.

Browners said...

@Mathildescuisine - I'd love to! I've got a fair few ideas to experiment with... It would be unbelievably brilliant.

Sven Ellis said...

Do Edwin and Anna have an Alfa as well as that gorgeous Fiat 124 Spider in the pic?

Browners said...

@Sven Ellis - I can assure you that is an Alpha.

Hollow Legs said...

With friends called Edwin who drive Alfas, I think you are one of the poshest people I know... ;)

What a great idea, cooking crab risotto on the bbq. It sounds like you really got the most out of your trip South West.

Anonymous said...

I really admire your approach to camping and the trouble you go to in order to maintain such high dining standards! Most people I know, even those really interested in food, would keep it simple. Perhaps I could get more excited about camping if I knew there was going to be food of this level involved!

Browners said...

@Lizzie - Glad to hear I pass the posh test! Edwin's a terribly down to earth chap by the way. We certainly got the most out of the South West and now can't wait to return for more fun and games!

@Ginger - I'm very flattered! We just love to cook on campsites. It's so much fun to push the boundaries a bit. And some cool kit helps too.

Sven Ellis said...

@Browners - Humble apologies. Is it a 2000? Whatever it is, it's too lovely to be out in the wet.

Browners said...

@Sven Ellis - I think it is a 1600. It's a lovely car. An absolute beauty. And you're right... it deserves a tent all of its own.

TC said...

I am endlessly impressed as to what you are prepared to try cooking on the barbeque! (and i love that car)

Browners said...

@TC - It's a beautiful car. But completely inpractical for camping! Cooking on a campfire/BBQ is one of our favourite things.

Anonymous said...

Very impressed with your efforts, next time when in Salcombe why not ring the Salcombe Fish Wife when you want the best Salcombe crab or lobster


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