Sweetcorn and Brown Crab Meat Fritters
Updated: Apr 6
"Little critters fried like fritters come out crunchy and divine."
Gregory Maguire (1954-)
Seasonality, it seems, can sometimes pose a dilemma amongst its delights. In early autumn, cobs of sweetcorn, snugly wrapped in their husks, are in abundance in farmers' markets and veg boxes, but disappear soon from their annual cameo. Some two or three months later, native UK brown crabs start to roe-up and their brown meat becomes the richest and most flavourful that it does throughout the year. And herein lies the dilemma (don't get me wrong, this is one of those nice problems to have!): if you've got a recipe up your sleeve that combines the two, when is the most seasonally-appropriate time to be proposing it?
On the basis that a key focus of mine for the last year or more has been to conjure up ways of enjoying the brown meat of a crab, a material that largely goes to waste, I think the conclusion is easily reached. As an ingredient, sweetcorn freezes extremely well, whether frozen at home (though as soon as possible!) during an autumnal glut or, indeed, bought frozen. Which means it can always be available in good form when the crab meat is at its best. And it's this autumn's frozen glut that I've put to use here.
To all intents and purposes, this is a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "River Cottage Veg Everyday!", a recipe for spicy sweetcorn fritters. I've been making it for some years, especially during sweetcorn season, and I can say with confidence that it has converted a couple of ardent sweetcorn-doubters. Then again I'm increasingly becoming of the view that if you want to encourage a veg-doubter to have a rethink, you can't go too far wrong by spicing up that veg, battering it and frying it crisp!
The idea of introducing brown crab meat into a sweetcorn fritter was little more than an embracement of the partnership of crab and corn that can be found in ever-popular dishes like crab and sweetcorn chowder and "Crab and Sweetcorn Soup". The two are indisputable partners and perhaps here the spiced-up-crisp-frying philosophy extends itself to be a brown-crab-meat-converter too!?
At the risk of stating the obvious but, nonetheless, by way of explanation, "Brown Crab" and "brown crab meat" are not the same thing. All crabs contain both white and brown meat, it's just that the most common crab in UK waters is known as the "Brown Crab". It has white meat as well.
That risk perhaps averted, if you really aren't ready to be swayed in the brown direction of crab meat you can merrily use the white meat. The cooking process is fast enough that it will not be overly compromised, but its less-assertive flavour may get a little lost. That said, tubs of 50:50 white and brown crab meat are increasingly available in approximately 300g quantities and this is a superb way of using the half of the tub that does, all-too-often, not even reach the consumer and go to waste. On a side-note, although they're not in wide circulation, I can't help feeling that there's a recipe somewhere here for soft-shell crabs, even without the sweetcorn.
For any cook reasonably confident in shallow-frying anything from veggie-burgers to breaded escalopes of meat, chicken, fish or veg, this is an incredibly easy recipe to have a go at. In fact, probably the hardest thing about the recipe is sourcing the gram (chickpea) flour! But even that isn't difficult these days.
Definitely serve these fritters with a dip. Yoghurt mixed with finely chopped mint and a pinch of salt, left for an hour or so to infuse, is ideal. But so would be some mango chutney or indeed any sweet and spicy relish or chutney.
Sweetcorn and Brown Crab Meat Fritters
Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as part of a meal or 6-8 as a snack, makes about 16 fritters)
120g chickpea (gram) flour
½ tsp baking powder (not essential)
½ tbsp ground cumin
½ tbsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or quantity to taste)
½ tsp fine sea salt
200g fresh sweetcorn kernels (approx 2 small ears of corn), or frozen corn kernels
100-150g brown crab meat, to taste
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 small, mild green or red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (or quantity to taste)
3-4 tbsp tbsp coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves
150-200ml whole milk
Sunflower, vegetable or rapeseed oil for deep frying
Sliced red chilli, picked coriander leaves and lime wedges, to garnish (optional)
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then mix in the ground spices and salt.
In a second bowl fold together the sweetcorn, brown crab meat, spring onion, chopped chilli and coriander leaves.
Stir in the sweetcorn and crab mix to the batter mix. Gradually whisk in enough of the milk to create a cohesive mixture that will drop off a spoon (not dissimilar to a thick pancake mixture).
Line a large plate with kitchen paper on which to drain the fritters once cooked, and preheat the oven to about 75°C.
Heat approx 1cm depth of oil to frying temperature (170-190°C) then, with a large spoon, gently drop fritter-sized quantities of the batter mixture into the oil, but do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for about 2 mins per side, turning only once the first side is sufficiently set as to hold together when turned. Transfer the cooked fritters to the paper-lined plate and keep warm in the oven (they will crisp a little further) while repeating the process with the next batches of fritters.
Serve hot or warm with a dipping sauce, for example a minty yoghurt, and lemon or lime wedges.
"River Cottage Veg Everyday!", Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (2011), pp. 325: https://www.amazon.co.uk/River-Cottage-Veg-Every-Day/dp/1408812126
"Crab and Sweetcorn Soup", Bute Street Seafoodie