Spider Crab Gratin

Spider Crab Gratin

One of our private chefs has been cooking up a storm all week for a Brighton family, and this dish looked too good not to share.

Chef Allan, is one of our Brighton Cookery School’s chefs, he’s worked as a chef for the last 12 years, both at home and abroad, hailing from Aberdeenshire, he brings a Celtic quality that we wouldn’t be without. When not cheffing in Brighton, Allan has also been working as a fishmonger for one of Brighton & Hove’s main fresh fish suppliers, so he’s not afraid to tackle a Spider Crab.

Spider Crabs are abundant in our local waters off Brighton’s shores, we’re just nearing the end of their season, as they surge the seabeds in the early summer in their 1000’s. As crazy as it may sound, although this crustacean is one of the most delicate and sweet flavoured you can buy, the U.K exports 95% of spider crab abroad.

These monsters of the deep, when in season, swarm the seabed floor and cause havoc in their wake, so lets jump on board and enjoy this delicacy and help keep our seabeds in tact.

Spider Crab Swarm

In Japanese waters, spider crabs have become giants of the deep and are known to grow up to 18ft/5.5mtrs claw to claw, maybe even too large for our fearless Chef Allan to tackle! Luckily, he only had to deal with 7 live spider crab for this spectacular dish, if you try this at home and don’t have the time to clean up the spider crab shells for service, then you can use an overproof dish.

Spider Crab Gratin

The sweetness of the spider crab meat with a cheesy nutty topping make this an impressive dish that will wow your guests with its flavour and looks. You can substitute the almonds for breadcrumbs, Allan was working to a gluten free diet, so this made a delicious alternative.

Serves 4
Prep Time 1 hour
Cooking time 30 mins

4 cooked and cooled spider crab –
(1kg crab takes  approx. 12 minutes into boiling water)
8 tbsp olive oil
2 leek, sliced
4 shallot, finely chopped
3 celery stick, finely chopped
3 tbsp tomato purée
3 tsp chopped fresh ginger
4 tsp Dijon mustard
100ml/4fl oz white wine
splash of brandy
dash hot sauce
4 lemon, zest only
4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
100g/4oz Toasted and roughly chopped almonds
100g/4oz gruyère cheese
100g/4oz parmesan cheese


Pick the meat from the crab, including that from the legs, and place into a bowl. Clean the shell of the body and set aside.

Preheat the grill to high.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the leek, shallot and celery and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.

Add the picked crabmeat, tomato purée, ginger and mustard to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from catching.

Add the white wine and brandy and simmer for a few minutes, or until the liquid has reduced.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in a dash of tobasco, the lemon zest and basil.

Spoon the crabmeat mixture back into the reserved crab shell. Mix together the breadcrumbs and grated cheeses, then sprinkle the mixture over the filling. Place under the grill until the topping is golden-brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Top Tip from Chef Allan: Get some else to pick the crab meat! It can take a while 🙂

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