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Spiced Crab Cakes with Sweet Chilli Jam


Andrew Maxwell

Spiced Crab Cakes with Sweet Chilli Jam

I have split this into two recipes, simply because the sweet chilli jam recipe below is SO good that you can make it separately and use it for a whole multitude of things: dipping sauces; accompaniments to meats; or even put into jars and labelled up nicely it makes a great gift.

The crab cakes are also stunning and go really well with the chilli jam. Don't be put off by the amount of ingredients though. They are really easy to make, freeze well and worth the effort.

To make 8 medium sized crab cakes:

  • 350g white crab meat
  • 135g brown crab meat
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs, rye or sourdough if possible
  • 2 hot red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • A thumb sized piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • Finely grated zest 2 limes
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Oil for shallow frying

Put the white and brown crabmeat in a bowl, add the breadcrumbs, chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, lime zest and spring onions. Mix well. Add salt to taste then carefully mix in the eggs.

Using wet hands, (this will make it easier to get a good shape) shape the mixture into cakes of whatever size you like. Place on a tray lined with silicone paper and chill for one hour. (If you want to, you can coat them in sesame seeds at this stage, for extra flavour and a crunchy skin).

Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan and fry the crab cakes in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with chilli jam.

Use wet hands to get the perfectly shaped crab cake.

Sweet chilli jam:

  • ½-2 medium-sized red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 450g very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
  • 225g demerara sugar
  • 55ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Dice all the vegetables.

In a food processor or blender, process the chopped tomatoes with the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce until smooth. Place in a sauce pan with the remaining tomatoes.

Add the sugar and vinegars, and slowly bring the mixture up to boiling point, stirring all the time.

When the mixture reaches the boil, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Skim off any foam from the surface and cook gently, uncovered, for thirty to forty minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should reduce to half its volume.

Pour into a hot, sterilised jar, allow it to cool and then cover and store it in the fridge. It will keep like this for up to a year.

A Fish-ful of dollars

During the summer of 2010, one of the UK's leading hospitality industry's trade magazines, Restaurant Magazine, published an exceptional article which was designed to advise chefs how to make the best use of sustainable seafood. The article was entitled 'A Fish-ful of Dollars,' and it's author, Joe Lutrario, has kindly allowed me to refer to and publish some extracts from the article in this edition of 'Cooking the Catch.' So, below are some extracts from his article which you might find interesting:

Cod a fish that has hit the headlines for two decades provides a perfect illustration of how complicated the fishing industry can be. A prevailing menu choice, few diners or chefs are clear on whether or not it is ethical to eat it. The alarm bells started ringing in the wake of the Newfoundland cod disaster. After unprecedented over-fishing in the North Sea, the world's most abundant population of cod suddenly collapsed in 1992, throwing the issue of fish sustainability into the international spotlight. People looked to Europe: stock levels were examined and quotas were cut dramatically, causing high levels of illegal cod landings. The supermarkets saw the increasingly negative headlines and looked to big producers such as Birds Eye and Findus for alternatives. Species such as Alaskan pollock started to be used in products such as fish fingers. The media and many restaurants branded cod unsustainable. The price of Alaskan pollock has now leapt up, and can be more expensive than cod. But since the major white fish buyers turned away from cod, stocks have had a chance to recover. The main fisheries for cod generally regarded as sustainable are the Icelandic, Norwegian and Pacific fisheries. North Sea cod is not such a good bet. High-quality, farmed cod is also available, much of it from Norway. "Cod stocks are making a comeback," says Tsuru Sushi cofounder, Emma Reynolds, "I'm just waiting for a little more research, then we'll think about getting it back on our menu."

Fishing methods explained

The numerous methods used to catch fish are a crucial factor in determining sustainability of a fishery. Bear in mind that the actual impact of each method is dependent on how responsibly each individual boat is managed and where they operate.


Used to capture fish in bottom or surface waters. Can vary in size from lines carrying thousands of hooks to smaller lines designed to be used closer to the shore. Particularly associated with trapping seabirds, sharks and sea turtles but bycatch reduction techniques can reduce impact.

Purse seines

Very large vertically floating nets used to encircle fish such as herring and mackerel. Issues with bycatch including dolphin.

Pots and creels

Traps designed to catch: crab, lobster, langoustine and octopus. Very few bycatch issues.

Demersal trawling

Designed to catch fish near the sea bed. There are several types of demersal trawling Including: beam trawling (flatfish); seine netting (cod, and haddock) and twin-rig trawls (langoustine). Beam trawlers, which are designed to disturb the seabed, can be very damaging, but there are bycatch issues with all types of demersal trawling.

Pelagic/mid-water trawling

Targets fish that live in the upper part of the ocean, including: hoki, herring and mackerel. Bycatch can be an issue but it's typically less than in demersal trawls.


Using metal-framed baskets as opposed to nets, this method rakes the seabed to catch bivalves such as scallops, oysters and clams. Habitat damage is often a problem, but depends on the frame's weight. Dredging can also catch other species unintentionally.

Drift, gill and set nets

'Passive' nets that are not actively towed by boats: Gill-netting targets the ocean Floor; draft-netting targets tuna, squid and sharks and set-netting targets migrating species such as wild salmon and sea trout. Often fairly low impact.

Pole and line, trolling and handline (hook and lines)

Selective fishing methods that have strong sustainability credentials. They tend to catch bass and mackerel and are favoured by smaller boats operating close to the shore.

Throw it back?

Ten fish that while not necessarily unsustainable you should be grilling your supplier about.


Bluefin is an absolute no-no and other tuna species are under increasing pressure. 'Dolphin-friendly' means just that other species may still have been affected. There are some MSC-accredited fisheries for albacore and more under assessment, including yellowfin, the closest in terms of taste and texture to bluefin.

Sturgeon and caviar

Wild-caught sturgeon is under serious threat and protected by international law. Caviar is available in very limited quantities. This is sturgeon roe, so we're eating the next generation. Farmed types available.


A bit of an enigma. Very little research has been done into stock levels as turbot is always part of a mixed catch, it doesn't have a specific fishery. It's unclear how much is left in the sea but anecdotal evidence points to a marked decline. Farmed turbot from Spain and France has improved dramatically in recent years.


Historically heavily over-fished, less are being taken out of the seas but there's currently little evidence to suggest stocks are on the up. The MSC has approved a Canadian long-line fishery, but you're unlikely to get it in the UK. Two farmed alternatives are wahoo and cobia.


A complicated fish there are many types and it's hard to tell them apart. The common skate is under a lot of pressure at the moment but smaller ray species: spotted; cuckoo; or starry rays are generally okay. It's just a case of knowing which one you're using. For this reason, try to buy them whole where possible.


A big slow-growing fish, some stocks of which are under threat, especially in the Atlantic. The MSC has recently approved a Pacific halibut fishery where a closed season is rigorously imposed when the fish is spawning. Farmed halibut is of increasingly good quality.
Aquamarine Silver


See above, but cod stocks are holding up pretty well since companies such as Birds Eye and Findus turned their attention to pollock. Cod from the Atlantic and North Sea is not a great choice and there is debate about the sustainability of Icelandic cod. The Norwegians have come up with more evidence to prove sustainability.


The large anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay was closed recently due to very serious over-fishing but has reopened. Ask for day boat-caught fish from the Mediterranean. Anchovies from Peru aren't a great choice as they're caught from very large trawlers.


Avoid plaice from the North Sea, although a Dutch North Sea fishery is currently going through MSC accreditation. Carefullycaught plaice from the west of the UK is fairly sustainable, as is some fish from Iceland and Norway.

European eel

A big debate at the moment. All European eels start out in the Sargasso Sea and are normally caught as they are returning to spawn, which is problematic. Data on stock levels varies erratically, and there is an argument among UK producers that European eel must be properly regulated and fished sustainably to ensure its longterm survival.
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