As much as I love a good stew, soup, pie etc, there is something about summer food – vibrant colours, fresh flavours, prettiness on a plate. Food is relaxed in an elegant way, something that cannot be easily achieved with stew and dumplings (although, YUM). As soon as the days start getting warmer, my appetite for carbs starts diminishing and I crave something a bit lighter for my belly. These crab rolls are perfect, like sushi rolls but without the rice. The two knobbly cukes turned up in the box – I pared thin strips with a vegetable peeler and used them as the wrappings for some crunchy ‘sushi’ rolls.
I got to thinking about seafood with fruit after Chris’ brother told me of a lobster and mango salad he ate recently in Dubai. In the UK, Alphonso mangoes are available right now. You buy them by the box and can find them in Indian grocers, which means just about anywhere in London (I can’t be sure of their availability elsewhere, although I used to find them with no problems in Oxford).
The flesh of the Alphonso is considered unsurpassed in terms of sweetness, juiciness and flavour and they are smaller than your average specimen. The fact that you buy them by the box coupled with an incredibly short shelf life is no issue as you will gobble them up quickly. The flavour is like a super enhanced mango.
The crabs landed at Whitby Bay which you can see on this webcam . You could even watch the catch come in, if you like that kind of thing… I bet they eat the freshest crab in Whitby Bay. I remember very clearly some crab eaten while holidaying in Cornwall with my family – spanking fresh, caught that morning and landed literally feet away from the shop/front of someone’s house. We ate it with brown toast, a squeeze of lemon and a green salad – I remember thinking I’d died and gone to heaven.
So for the rolls, we have a strip of mango, a pocket of succulent crab meat, a thin strip each of red chilli and spring onion and finally a leaf of young coriander. All of these I picked up from my favourite local shop which I am lucky to have, as the shopkeeper really cares about great produce and his finger is completely on the pulse without being pretentious. I am hoping my preference for shopping locally might offset my carbon footprint a little considering that the Alphonsos came from Mumbai… Look, I don’t even drive ok?
In the same shop I also discovered some wet garlic – fresh, paperless and an absolute dream to use. The shopkeeper was happy we bought it, peeling back the skin slightly and inviting us to smell it’s pungency. It’s beautiful. You know how that paper can sometimes drive you crazy? No problem with wet garlic, the skin in still fresh and the cloves pop right out. They are crisp, crush like a dream and the whole bulb is a bloomin’ revelation. I want all my garlic like this. The cucumber acted as a perfect container for the fillings – you get crunchy cuke, soft crab, fruity mango, a hint of chilli and fragrant herbage.
This you dunk into the dipping sauce of finely chopped kaffir lime leaves, wet garlic, galangal, rice wine vingear, fish sauce and a touch of honey and oil. Great finger food and perfect for sharing. We ate them on our balcony which is fast becoming a mini jungle, listening to sounds of people in the park and the London traffic which I now find strangely comforting. I love sitting in our little oasis with the chaos of the city below.
Cucumber Rolls with Crab, Alphonso Mango and Chilli
– I don’t think this really needs a recipe does it? Pare thin strips (lengthways) from a cucumber with a vegetable peeler, fill with white crab meat, mango strips, chilli strips and a coriander leaf. Roll them up. Voila! Dip in your sauce of choice.