Velvet crab soup with crispy crab cakes

Velvet crab soup with crispy crab cakes

British Seafood
David Loftus

Flavourful ‘velvets’ work wonderfully for a crab soup, but you can use any variety here, or any other crustacean for that matter. The crab cake served on the soup gives it extra interest but you don’t have to make the soup to enjoy these – they are lovely simply with a tasty mayonnaise.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg live velvet crabs, placed in the freezer 1 hour before cooking, (see note)
olive oil, for cooking
2 litres water
75g unsalted butter
2 onions, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 large orange, finely zested
1 sprig tarragon
5 ripe plum tomatoes
100ml dry sherry
100ml double cream
cornish sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
drizzle Orange oil, to finish

Crab cakes

Quantity Ingredient
150g fresh white crabmeat
100g potato, cooked and mashed
1 shallot, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons tarragon, chopped
2 teaspoons capers, chopped
2 teaspoons gherkins, chopped
50g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
75g japanese panko breadcrumbs
oil, for deep-frying


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the velvet crabs in a large roasting tray and drizzle them with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes and then turn the crabs over and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes. Take the tray from the oven and gradually pour in the water, stirring to deglaze and scraping up the sediment from the bottom.
  2. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add a good drizzle of olive oil and add the butter. When bubbling, add the onions, carrots, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Next add the orange zest, tarragon and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Now add the sherry, roasted crabs and all the water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface from time to time.
  3. While the soup is cooking, make the crab cakes. Put the picked crabmeat, cooled mashed potato, shallot, tarragon, capers and gherkins into a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and then shape the mixture into 4 large crab cakes. Chill for 20 minutes to firm up.
  4. Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls. Take the crab cakes out of the fridge and pass them firstly through the flour, then through the egg and finally through the breadcrumbs. Set aside until serving.
  5. Once the soup is cooked, remove and discard the crab shells, then pour the remaining contents of the pan into a blender. Carefully (as the soup will be hot) blend for 2 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add the cream and bring the soup to a gentle simmer. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep-fryer or deep, heavy pan to 180°C. Deep-fry the crab cakes for 1 minute until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.
  7. Divide the soup between 4 warmed bowls. Put a hot crispy crab cake in the centre of each portion. Finish with a drizzle of orange oil.

Cooking crab

  • I put crabs into the freezer an hour or so before cooking to calm them down. Also, I always try to cook my crabs in sea water, but you can use 50 g salt to 1 litre tap water. Bring your salty water to a fast boil. Take the crab from the freezer and plunge an awl or other sharp pointed tool into one of the two points on its underside to kill it instantly, then plunge it into the boiling water. Once the water comes back to the boil, cook for 15 minutes if the crab is 600 g or less, adding 2 minutes for every extra 100 g. As soon as the crab is cooked, lift it out onto a tray to cool.
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