From an award-winning chef who loves local food, these seaside bites are proven to silence the fiercest food critic…
From a first job as a North Sea trawlerman to Chef Patron at Christchurch Harbour Hotel, winning Michelin stars and praise from Gordon Ramsey along the way. Whether at Le Poussin, Whitley Ridge or Lime Wood in the New Forest – when it comes to cooking the best local, seasonal food, Alex Aitken has done it all. And he’s been doing it for 30 years in Hampshire and Dorset, long before it was as fashionable as it is now to champion local food. Back when foraging would get you strange looks rather than social media shares.
You’d be hard pressed to find any chef with a greater knowledge of Hampshire and Dorset producers or more passion for using their ingredients in his food. Whether it’s at The Jetty, his restaurant at Christchurch Harbour Hotel in Mudeford or on his ‘15 Mile Menu’ at sister hotel, the Kings Arms in Christchurch, his dishes are locally sourced, sustainable and acclaimed by visitors, regulars and critics alike.
To all the awards on Alex’s CV must be added the effect this recipe had on a famous foodie. These crab croquettes are so delicious they left the famously mouthy Janet Street Porter lost for words! She was lucky enough to sample them on BBC’s ‘Taste of Britain’ show with fellow presenter Brian Turner. He described them as “a clever combination of seaside flavours” whereas Janet was left speechless. (“I can’t speak; I’m enjoying these so much”). See if you can manage more than a “mmmm” when try them for yourself…
Brown crab butter
110g brown crab meat
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives
1tsp chopped tarragon
110g soft butter
Juice 1⁄2 of a lemon
White crab brandade
225g white crab meat
225g dry mashed potato – allowed to cool
2tbsp chopped chives
(mix all together and season with salt and pepper)
For the filling
Place the brown crab meat into a food processor and blitz until smooth then pass through a sieve. Mix the crab meat with the softened butter, the chopped herbs and spices and season with salt, cayenne pepper (not too much pepper, it’s nice and hot) and lemon juice. Place the softened mixture into a piping bag and pipe into a cylindrical shape onto parchment paper. Freeze.
To make the croquettes
Remove the brown crab butter from the freezer and cut into finger length pieces. Carefully wrap them in the white crab mixture so they resemble sausages and return to the freezer.
Whilst the croquettes are freezing, you can start to prepare the breadcrumbs. In three separate bowls you will need some plain flour, some dried breadcrumbs and two beaten eggs let down with a dash of cold water.
Place the frozen croquettes first into the flour to give them a light coating, then dip into the beaten egg shaking off the excess then roll in the bread crumbs to coat. For best results do this twice. The croquettes can now be placed into the fridge ready for deep frying.
Heat a large pan of oil to 170°C and carefully place the croquettes inside, turning occasionally to achieve an even golden brown colour. Alternatively use an electric deep fat fryer.
The Jetty, Christchurch Harbour Hotel & 95 Mudeford, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 3NT