Living only a short car ride from the North Sea, and often after a morning’s work, staring at this screen, I unexpectedly find myself yielding to a culinary lunar pull from the coast. Think on the land based equivalents; bacon sandwiches, take-away curries, chocolate digestives, baked beans on toast, the sort of out-of-body inducements that can overcome at utterly inconvenient moments and are, by definition, almost irresistible. So it is with seascapes, crab pots, beached seaweed and salty air, they carry, amongst other attractions, the distinct promise of a crustacean unlike any other – freshly boiled crab. And combined with Dijon mayonnaise on wholemeal bread, you could be facing a lunchtime sandwich unlike any other. My working day has often been interrupted accordingly, but that is by the by.

When more time is available, my favourite crab lunch (or supper for that matter) follows below. This recipe, enthusiastically recommended by Lloyd Grossman, was originally published in an American recipe book and cites New England rock crabs fished out of Maine.

I first made this dish as a water-based picnic for a boat trip in friend David’s little craft out of Brancaster Staithe. The trip was partly to allow younger members of the family to plunge overboard for some free swimming, partly to spy on the huge seal colony relaxing on the spit nearby, but predominately for David and I to undertake a recce for our forthcoming Mackerel fishing voyage. We stocked an icebox with Provençal Rosé, and kept the crab turnovers (samosas) warm near the engine. The incoming salty breeze sealed the deal.

I suspect that if one were able to prise out firm chunks of meat, similar to lobster, crab would doubtless cost so much more as it always offers a far more compelling taste. Do make use of this delicious meat whenever the sea frets beckon and you’re close to the swell.

Maine Crabmeat Turnovers from Jasper White’s Cooking from New England (1989)

Makes 32 (so halve the recipe when necessary)


2 tbsp finely diced red pepper

2 tbsp finely diced carrot

2 tbsp finely diced carrot

2 tbsp finely diced celery

1 small chilli pepper

1 tbsp unsalted butter

450 g fresh crabmeat

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp mayonnaise

¼ cup dry white breadcrumbs

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 sheets of filo pastry, 30 x 40 cms

8 tbsp butter, melted

Sauté the pepper, carrot, celery and chilli pepper in 1 tbsp butter

Allow to cool, then chill

Mix gently with crabmeat, mustard, spring onions, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs and lemon juice

Season to taste with salt and pepper

Cut filo into 4 even strips 5 cms wide, brush strip with melted butter

Put a heaped tsp in the corner of a strip and fold over into a triangle

Continue folding until you reach the end of the strip

For extra-crisp turnovers, double the amount of filo. Butter a strip then lay a second strip on top of it. Butter the second sheet then continue as directed

Place on a greased or lined baking tray, continue until all turnovers are done

About 25 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp and golden brown

At home, I serve these with a light mustard dressing

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp finely chopped shallots

150 ml peanut oil

50 ml sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine in a clean, empty jam jar and shake well