Mat Follas of the Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury encourages us to try Crab Thermidor for the perfect dish for autumn.

Our move to Poundbury last spring is proving to be the right one, we are so lucky to be in the middle of some great shops, here in the Buttermarket area there are great toy and gift shops, linens and clothing and, of course, some decent cafes and restaurants.

There are well over 100 businesses in Poundbury, most small and independent so its worth exploring for some real treats.

Its worth a mention that many businesses are mainly owned and run by women (including Bramble Cafe), no doubt a big part of the many success stories there are here.

I first moved to the UK when I was in my early 20s and spent a couple of years here working mostly in London before heading back to New Zealand to study. What I missed more than anything, believe it or not, was the weather.

I love the seasons we have in the UK, we are now settling down for autumn and winter, red leaves, amazing sunsets and, as a cook, wonderful, hearty meals.

I won Masterchef a long time ago now, cooking a Crab Thermidor and it's still a dish I love.

If the weather is warmer it can be dressed up with a salad, or serve it with some hand made chips, like I did, for a warm and hearty dish, its the perfect dish for autumn.

Crab Thermidor

Prepare: 25 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

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 its 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 using mustard or Tabasco for example.

Use the method below as a guide but trust your taste buds, this is not a dish of exact measurements.

Crab meat needs to be handled with care.

It should either be kept at refrigerator temperature, or hot, above 75°C. It’s very important not to leave it sitting out of the fridge for any longer than is necessary.

  • 200g white crab meat
  • 200g brown crab meat
  • 4 crab shells (You should be able to purchase these from a good fishmonger. check the meat to remove any shell fragments with your fingertips)
  • 600ml unreduced shellfish stock
  • 60g gruyère cheese
  • 1 tsp English mustard (powdered)
  • Few drops Tabasco
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to season
  • 100g samphire (picked of any woody bits)
  • Bunch salad leaves to garnish
  • 1 lemon
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g spinach

Simmer the stock in a pan until it has reduced by approx 2/3.

Add Tabasco, English mustard, half the cheese and a pinch of salt & pepper, then taste it. It should be a spicy, slightly salty, seafood liquor.

Turn the heat down and add the double cream, then the crab meat and stir together gently. You should now have a thick stew (don’t over-cook or over-stir it as crab meat is quite delicate).

Fill about ¼ of each crab shell with spinach leaves and then spoon the mixture over until the shells are full.

Scatter with the remaining cheese on top and place them under a grill for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

Presentation Make a small pile of samphire on the plate and place the hot crab shell on top of it. Arrange the salad leaves and a slice of lemon around it.

Just before serving, sprinkle the crab thermidor with pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the salad.