Coconutty crab cakes -

Coconutty crab cakes

Coconutty crab cakes

Food obsession has its uses, not least that I am always thinking about how I could put any ingredients in the house to good service. I often put breadcrumbs in crab cakes, but it occurred to me one day that unsweetened shredded coconut might well do the same job, absorbing moisture and helping the cakes to set. It does, and rather better than the breadcrumbs: I like the faint tropical hint, like the memory of a Caribbean sky, and the less heavy, tender texture it lends the little patties. 

You could serve lime wedges to squeeze over these crab cakes as you eat, and it certainly would look prettier, but for me, rice vinegar has the edge, to undercut the faint sweetness of the (albeit unsweetened) coconut.

Makes 14, enough to serve 6–8
7 ounces picked white crab meat
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño peppers (drained from a can or jar) 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons rice vinegar, plus more for serving
oil, for frying

• Put the crab meat in a bowl and check for any bits of stray shell which should be removed, then mix the crab meat, flour, and coconut in a bowl.
• Add the jalapeño, cilantro, and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar and mix well, patting down in the bowl to form a compact layer at the bottom.
• Cover and leave in the refrigerator to set for 1 hour.
• Heat enough oil in a frying pan to cover the bottom of the pan in a shallow layer.
• Take the crab mixture out of the refrigerator and scoop out tablespoonfuls – using a tablespoon measure with a rounded bowl shape – pressing the mixture into the measure and then easing out the mound into the hot oil.
• You will only be able to make 4 or 5 at a time comfortably, however big your pan, as the first crab cake to go down will need to be turned over just about the time you’ve added the fourth or fifth. Remember that the crab is already cooked, so really you’re just cooking until the cakes are crisp and golden on the outside and heated right through inside. About 1 minute a side should be fine.
• Remove them to some sheets – double-thickness – of paper towels (lining a board, a cookie sheet, or a plate) and blot them as you go. To keep the cooked crab cakes warm, carefully transfer them to a wire rack, put the rack over a cookie sheet, and hold them in an oven preheated to 225°F for up to 20 minutes.
• Serve with a little more rice vinegar sprinkled on as you eat.

The crab mixture can be made up to 1 day ahead. Keep covered in the refrigerator until needed, then cook as instructed in recipe.

The crab cakes can be frozen for up to 1 month but only if the crab meat has not been previously frozen (check with fish seller or supermarket if you are not sure). Do not re-freeze previously frozen crabmeat. Spoon dollops of crab mixture onto cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap and flatten slightly. Cover with layer of plastic wrap and freeze until solid then transfer to airtight container. Fry directly from frozen, in about H inch depth oil, over medium heat and allowing 1–2 extra minutes’ cooking time per side. Reduce heat if crab cakes are browning too quickly, and check they are hot right through. Blot and transfer to wire rack, and keep warm as directed in recipe.


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