Crab and Fennel Soup

What a palaver. The three stages of this recipe are going to have you turning the page before you have even read the recipe. And I am afraid there are no short cuts (I guess you could use shop bought mayo instead of homemade if you really have to – no one will know the difference). But yes this recipe is worth it. Once you have got yourself in the mood for a Saturday afternoon cooking and pottering around the kitchen then this recipe is actually very easy, and terribly satisfying. It’s a show-off number so save it for a dinner party, and to make sure each guest knows how much trouble you went to. Plus, its delicious – really delicious.


    Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main


    For the stock:

    30g butter

    10 cooked crab claws

    2 onions, roughly chopped

    3 celery sticks, roughly chopped

    2 tsp fennel seeds

    1 tsp dried chilli

    3 bay leaves

    100ml brandy


    For the soup:

    2 lt Crab stock

    1 onion, chopped

    2 garlic cloves, chopped

    2 tsp smoked paprika 

    2 fennel bulbs, chopped

    1 tsp fennel seeds

    1 large glass white wine

    bunch tarragon

    juice 1 lemon

    salt and pepper


    For the crab:

    50g crab per person – if starter (100g if main)

    2 tbsp mayonnaise

    1 ½ zest and juice of a lemon

    1 fennel, grated

    1 red chilli, chopped


1.     First you need to retrieve the crab meat from the claws. Crack the claws by using a shellfish crusher – or a hammer and carefully take out the crab meat and put in a bowl. Repeat for all 10 claws. Put the bowl in the fridge and save for later.

2.     Onto the stock – in a large pan melt the butter over a medium heat and add all the ingredients apart for the brandy and the shells and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the brandy and the shells and combine. Add enough water to cover the shells with extra room and simmer – simmer for about an hour and a half. Sieve and leave to one side.

3.     In a pan large enough to fit the whole soup melt a dollop of butter and add the onion, garlic, smoked paprika, fennel and fennel seeds and sauté till starting to caramelise. Add the white wine and simmer for a moment then add the stock and combine. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into the blender and blend till smooth. Add the tarragon, lemon, salt and pepper and blend again. Return to the pan and wait until ready to serve. 

4.     Take the crab mixture out of the fridge, add the mayo, lemon, fennel, chilli and season – carefully fold and taste – add more lemon or seasoning if needs be.

5.     When ready to serve heat the soup and divide between the bowls and add a good spoonful of the crab mixture to the middle of the soup.