Crab Thermidor

Crab thermidor

The lovely sunshine may have inspired a few spontaneous family trips to the seaside, but if you want to taste the sea without leaving your kitchen this weekend, then we’ve got a great recipe for you to try today! We’ve been hearing a lot from Mat Follas of late - he had a catch up with Liza Tarbuck on BBC Radio 2 last week and appeared on BBC Radio Devon yesterday! - so we couldn’t help but share one of his favourite dishes. Taken from his stunning new book, Fish, this crab thermidor recipe won him the Masterchef title in 2009 and is a firm favourite in his restaurant. Enjoy!

"This is a variation of the Spider Crab Thermidor I cooked as my MasterChef winning main dish. This is not a true thermidor recipe, as we make the sauce using cream, rather than a flour-based roux. However, this is the one I prefer and that I serve in my restaurant because of it’s wonderful flavour and because it can be eaten by people with a gluten intolerance. The flavour of crab changes throughout the season and so accordingly, the seasoning for this dish must be adjusted (tailor the mustard, Tabasco etc.). Use the method below as a guide but trust your taste buds, this is not a dish of exact measurements."


600 ml unreduced Shellfish Stock (recipe below)

a few drops of Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon English mustard powder

60 g grated Gruyère cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

100 ml double cream

200 g white crab meat

200 g brown crab meat

4 crab shells (you should be able to buy these from a fishmonger)

100 g spinach

100 g. samphire, woody bits discarded

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Prepare: 15 minutes | Cook: 30 minutes | Serves: 2

Put the stock in a saucepan set over a medium heat and simmer until it has reduced by about two-thirds.

Add the Tabasco, English mustard, half of the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary – it should be a spicy, slightly salty, seafood liquor.

Turn the heat down and add the double cream, then the crab meat and gently stir together. You should now have a thick stew. Take care not to overcook or overstir it as the crab meat is quite delicate.

Fill each crab shell about a quarter of the way up with spinach leaves, then spoon over the mixture so that the shells are full.

Scatter with the remaining cheese and place the filled shells under a hot grill/broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

Make a small pile of samphire on each serving plate and place the hot crab shell on top of it. Just before serving, sprinkle the crab with pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the samphire.

Note: Crab meat needs to be handled with care. It should either be kept fridge-cold, or above 70°C (160°F). It’s very important not to leave it sitting out of the fridge for any longer than is necessary.



4 brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped

8 carrots, thinly sliced

8 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, cut into quarters

the peel of 1 lemon

2 litres/3½pints cold water

300 ml/1¼ cups shellfish juices (or 200 g/7 oz. scallop frills)

200 g/3 cups uncooked prawns/shrimp, shells on

Prepare: 10 minutes | Cook: 1 hour | Makes: 2 litres/3½ pints


Put all of the ingredients in a large pan set over a gentle–medium heat, bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for a further 45 minutes.

Blend the mixture using a handheld electric blender, then pour the liquid through a fine mesh sieve/strainer into a jug/pitcher. Discard the pulp.


Fish by Mat Follas, with photography by Steve Painter.