Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Orson Welles (1915-1985)
I’d had this idea brewing for a couple of weeks after reading a recipe in “The River Cottage Fish Book” (it was on the page preceding the recipe for Kipper Carbonara). The recipe there was not a mayonnaise-based concoction but I loved the idea of combining crab, pasta and basil and have long-enjoyed crab with mayonnaise-based dressings. And there are many supermarket pasta salads available, the ones so often bought for a quick lunch, which do have mayonnaise in their makeup, so I inspected the ingredients list of one example from a well-known supermarket for further inspiration for my crab pasta "lunchbox".
There isn't a lot to it really. The chosen pasta is a shell-type option: conchiglie or orecchiette – I opted for the latter just because I always have a packet in stock just in case I come upon some cime di rapa - but other shapes such as fusilli or penne would be fine as crab meat and mayonnaise are adequately clingy in nature. Added to the cooked pasta is some best-quality (read home-made) mayonnaise, and a seasoning of ground mace, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. The crab meat is folded in, cherry tomato pieces and shredded basil are added and the seasoning is perfected with lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper. Put in a Tupperware box and wait for the next lunch. "Simples!"
As it happened, this year's Father’s Day lunch was a bit of a seafood extravaganza (produce from my parents' local fishmonger, Williams & Bunkell) which included a platter of spider crab claws - a few too many for us to finish. So I cracked the remaining ones and kept the white meat to make this meal for the next day's lunch.
I can confirm that all the shells from the crab were immediately put in the stock pot to get into the freezer a stock for the next Paella or Bouillabaisse style meal!
In reality, any white crab meat would be excellent here, but there’s good cause to use our native spider crab as much as we can. Good quality store-bought mayonnaise is absolutely fine to use but I have put my favourite recipe for mayonnaise in the Notes.
Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)
Ingredients (per serving)
75-100g white crab meat
75g conchiglie or orecchiette (or quantity according to appetite)
Glug of olive oil
2-3 tbsp best quality mayonnaise (see Note for a recipe)
A pinch of garlic (or onion) powder/granules
A pinch of ground mace
A pinch of cayenne pepper
50g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
10 basil leaves
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for 1 min less than required. Drain the pasta then put in bowl, coat with a glug of olive oil and leave to cool.
Add 2 tbsp of the mayonnaise to the pasta and stir in the spices so that the pasta is well-coated. Add more mayonnaise if required, then season to taste with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.
Fold in the crab meat and cherry tomatoes, then finely shred the basil leaves and fold those in too. Check and adjust the seasoning and serve, or store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Mayonnaise: In a bowl whisk together 1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and ½ tbsp Dijon mustard plus a little salt. Whilst continuing to whisk, gradually drip in 125ml groundnut oil (or a mixture of one-third olive oil and two-thirds groundnut oil) until everything has emulsified. If it is still a little thin continue to whisk in a little more groundnut or olive oil. When the mayonnaise has formed season it to taste with salt and freshly ground black or white pepper and/or a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Stored in an airtight container the mayonnaise can be kept in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.
"The River Cottage Fish Book", Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher (2007), pp. 389: https://www.amazon.co.uk/River-Cottage-Fish-Book/dp/1408814293