This is distilled from my latest Borough Market ‘Assemblies’ column — things that take just a few minutes to put together, and so make the most of seasonal market food to feed a crowd.
You can follow the series on their website, along with the many excellent recipes and articles that are updated daily (browse the tabs marked, err, ‘Recipes’ and ‘Articles’).
I suppose in essence this dish is the equivalent of one of those recipe boxes that contains the pre-prepared elements of a meal that you can throw together last minute and feel like you’ve cooked from scratch.
But pre-prepared things are available away from apps and subscription boxes too (confit duck legs, pre-made corn tacos, fresh pasta, roasted peppers etc). Often those ingredients are really good, and there’s absolutely no shame in taking advantage of the work that others have already done. The results will be better than one of those boxes; and there’ll be less packaging to get rid of too.
One of my favourite ‘ready’ items is a dressed crab; the fiddly cooking, picking and separation of brown meat, white meat and claw has already been done for us. You could stick that between some slices of bread, or with good tomatoes or roast peppers, and be happy. But I like to pair crabmeat (both types — the more flavoursome brown being particularly important) with also pre-cooked white beans (haricots, butter beans or coco de paimpol). There’s a virtually ready-made flavour bomb of a sauce to be got by combining the brown crab meat and cooking liquor of the beans, and very little time required to get a result.
So in essence this is basically: buy cooked crab, buy cooked beans, mix. Albeit in this instance finely chopped parsley, thinly sliced yellow courgettes and a chilli-flecked vinaigrette provide additional colour and texture.
Serves 4 when eaten with sharply-dressed crisp lettuce and thick wedges of fresh buttered bread. 6 if you add a big tomato or roast pepper salad too.
Finely dice 1 mild red chilli. Measure 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the chilli. Leave to cool.
Remove the white crab meat and claw from a (large) dressed crab and set to one side. Spoon the brown meat into a large mixing bowl. Gently prize half to two-thirds of the beans from a 660g jar of Brindisa’s Navarrico ‘alubias blancas’ into a separate bowl*. Fill the jar about a third full of recently boiled water (thereby capturing the starchy cooking liquor) and then pour that out through a sieve and over the brown crab meat, transferring the remaining beans into the bowl with the others in.
Whisk the brown meat so that it’s mixed into the water, then add all the beans, plus 1-2 small yellow courgettes, very thinly sliced, 2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley and a generous pinch of good salt and freshly ground pepper. Carefully fold everything together. Taste and re-season if necessary, then decant onto a platter. Distribute the white crab meat and spoon the chilli vinaigrette over the top.
*I’ve been deliberately specific on the brand here — because Navarrico beans are excellent. You can do it with any cooked white beans, though. Just take care with the ‘adding extra water’ element. Go little by little. The beans should be loose and can take a surprising amount, however you can always add more, but can’t take away…