There was a restaurant in West Cork called The Good Things Café. It did the simple things well and kept the difficult things simple. We ate there two or three times a year for the 12 years or so it operated out of the old butterfly house on the road out from Durrus towards Ahakista.
But there was always a dilemma to be had in going there. Whether to have the crab tart as a starter or main course. It always felt as if going one way meant having to give up on something else – a bowl of fish soup or cooling gazpacho to start with or hake with rice, duck legs with noodles, squid stew as a main. Over the years I realised that if one of the kids could be persuaded to have the fish soup there was a good chance it would it would need to be finished off by me although that could not be guaranteed and there were still decisions to be made over the rest of the meal.
The crab tart was a glorious thing – crisp pastry holding together a set golden custard flecked with white crab. I think saffron might have been involved.
It was so good we had a whole to share as part of the meal for my 50thbirthday on the Cottage’s lawn.
Back at home I have made the occasional attempt to find a recipe that would allow me to replicate the meals that we had there. I thought I had found one last year but the tart tin was too thick and I lacked confidence in how long it should be in the oven. As a consequence the custard had not set and it flowed across the plate a crabby gooey mess. Tasted pretty good though.
Then leafing through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book on fish cooking catching up on what he had to say about mackerel I came across his recipe for crab tart and thought I should give it a go.
As a bonus it was a grey wet Saturday morning so I bought a live crab from Wards all the better to give me an hour to waste picking out every small last morsel of white meat from the nooks and crannies of the papery shelled interior listening to good music as I went. I managed to snap the nut crackers whilst doing so.
An onion was chopped and cooked in olive oil until golden with some garlic and red chilli. Eggs were mixed with cream and hard cheese and it all went into a tin lined with layers of filo pastry.
Transpired I still lacked confidence with my timings. It looked very pretty but the pastry hadn’t cooked through and the custard needed another five minutes to set properly. Still it tasted pretty good.
Oh and we had a couple of artichokes picked from the garden. Surprisingly good!