Spaghetti with crab and yellow pepper recipe

Two days ago, I bought some cut-price crab that was near its use-by date. I’ve never had crab before so I wasn’t sure what to do with it or what it tasted like. I opened the packet and immediately the strong seafood smell hit my nose. It reminded me of salmon, a little. Or very strong lobster.

I looked online for crab recipes but I didn’t have any of the ingredients for the ones I found. Also, a lot of them required white wine and I’m non-alcoholic at the moment due to being pregnant so I needed an alcohol-free no-wine crab recipe.

I decided to cook it with spaghetti, but you could use linguine if you wanted to be more traditional. Or any pasta you have in your house. If you prefer a sweeter pepper, red pepper or orange pepper would also work (bell peppers, not capiscums).

Even once it’s cooked, the strong crab flavor is very apparent, and this recipe is perfect for seafood lovers looking to mix it up when it comes to their crab.

This was quite a hearty dish that I think would be very warming on a cool autumn day when the temperature starts to drop and the evenings are drawing in.

So here’s my spaghetti with crab and yellow pepper recipe. Serves two very big bowls!

Ingredients:

150g spaghetti

120g crab meat

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp diluted tomato puree (diluted 1:1 with water) Substitute with undiluted passata or plain tomato pasta sauce if that’s what you have.

1 tsp garlic

Pinch chilli flakes

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

A chopped yellow bell pepper

A sprinkle of basil

Method:

  1. Cook the spaghetti as you usually would. Should take 10-14 minutes depending on the cooker and pan. Fresh spaghetti takes more like 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the centre stalk and seeds of the yellow bell pepper (I do this by drawing a circle around the top with a knife then pulling on the green stalk). Chop bell pepper into roughly 1/2 inch squares (or leave bigger if you prefer).
  3. Put the olive oil into a pan and start heating it.
  4. Add the bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes then turn heat down to a simmer.
  5. Add the lemon juice and stir in.
  6. Add garlic, chilli flakes and basil. Mix well in pan.
  7. Add the crab meat. This shouldn’t be cooked for too long or it will become stringy.
  8. Add the tomato puree, mix thoroughly.
  9. Drain the spaghetti then mix it into the pan with the sauce. Serve.

To make this meal extra-special, you could make a garlic baguette to accompany it. For best results, don’t reheat the crab (it’s quite delicate), so scale down your recipe for the number of people you’re feeding. If you don’t have a big appetite, you could probably get 3 servings out of this (or 4 if you wanted 2 adult portions and 2 child-sized ones).

Veganize this meal by substituting silken tofu for crab and adding a handful of shredded seaweed and a tiny splash of soya sauce to keep the sea taste.

Dairy-free cheesy potato gratin recipe

This is a super-cheesy, super-saucy variant on the traditional potato gratin which can be served as a filling accompaniment to a variety of dishes. This follows on from yesterday’s cheesy vegetable bake recipe, as I made this a day later (once we finally had some potatoes).

What’s the difference between potato boulangere and potato gratin? A boulangere is a dish where thin slices of potato are put in an ovenproof dish, drowned in a sauce of cream and chicken stock, and baked until the potatoes at the top are crispy. A gratin, traditionally-speaking, is a boulangere with cheese on top. As you can see, the traditional version needs some big changes to make it dairy-free and vegan!

Every Sunday, and at Easter and Christmas, my aunt used to do a stunning roast dinner, and one of my favourite things on the dining table was a big bowl of potato boulangère with the delicious crispy slices of potatoes on the top and soft, saucy potato slices underneath. I loved it. When I had to cut out dairy many years ago after developing CMPA, I thought I’d never get to eat it again.

Sometime in 2012, my aunt gave me a dairy-free potato boulangere recipe and I was very happy to be able to enjoy one of my favourite dishes once again.

Since then, we’ve had four house moves across three countries (and two continents) and I have lost my potato gratin recipe. In the absence of a structured recipe, I devised this dairy-free cheesy potato bake a few days ago as a vegan side dish to go with the Lidl vegan Christmas roast they were selling very cheaply in January. It would also work well with Linda McCartney vegetarian quarter pounders, although you would need to add the quarter pounders to the oven about halfway through cooking this potato bake.

Ingredients:

5 medium-sized potatoes

Dairy-free white sauce (recipe here) or cheese sauce (recipe here). I recommend the white sauce.

100g grated cheese

You can totally cheat on the sauce and use one of plenty of options, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

Method:

Peel the potatoes. Chop into thin slices. Fill a medium-sized glass dish with them.

Make up the white sauce (or cheat and open a jar of it) and cover the potatoes with it.

Cook on 150 degrees for 30-35 minutes then cover with grated cheese. Turn up the temperature of the oven to 180 and put the dish back in the oven and cook for the last 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted a bit and is starting to go crispy.

If you mess this up (as I did this one time) and put the cheese on too soon, just put the food in the oven and keep the oven at 150 for 20 more minutes.

To check if it’s ready, try sticking a fork into one of the slices of potato. If it feels hard, it’s not ready so put it back in the oven. If it’s soft, it’s ready to serve!

Dairy Free Cheesy Vegetable Bake

Being dairy-free, the thing I miss the most is cheese. When I first became a vegetarian back in 2007, I didn’t much care about cheese, but over the next twelve months, I really discovered it. Wensleydale. Stilton. Halloumi… I’d never tried such delicious things. I grew up in a house where “cheese sauce” came out of an instant Bisto tub with some hot water added. So the world of proper cheese was a huge discovery for me (and a double-edged sword, when I found out it actually makes me ill as I have non-IgE CMPA).

Despite being dairy-free, I do still try to enjoy cheese (soy or coconut cheese, these days) and I still create recipes that include it. The biggest thing you need to know about dairy-free cheese is it’s not a source of protein (unlike animal cheese) so you need to compensate for that by including protein in your daily diet.

One of my favourite foods is cauliflower cheese, and that’s what this dairy-free vegetable bake is based on (but using more veg for variety).

Thankfully, this recipe is both gluten-free and dairy-free (and vegan) so it’s perfect for anyone with those dietary requirements. It’s also low-carb.

Originally, I wanted to make something resembling a potato gratin, but I’d forgotten the recipe and couldn’t find it anywhere (it’s probably on this blog somewhere). Then it turned out we had no potatoes so I gave up on that, and did this sort of cauliflower cheese vegetable bake thing instead. It uses broccoli, cauliflower and peas, but if you only have broccoli or cauliflower you can use one instead of both.

This takes about 10-15 minutes to prep (it might be a little slower if you do the white sauce from scratch using my vegan white sauce recipe but you’ll get faster at the white sauce the more times you make it) so it’s great as an addition for a dinner party, Sunday lunch or a special occasion, or just to liven up weekday meals, if you’re doing something that takes a little longer to cook than usual, such as a nut roast. If you’re dairy-free but non-vegan, you could serve with salmon or another oily fish.

This could also be a lunchtime main if you added some chopped vegetarian sausages or a healthy sprinkling of sunflower seeds to add protein, if you’re looking for vegan recipe ideas or inspiration.

Dairy free cheesy vegetable bake recipe

Ingredients:

100g broccoli

100g cauliflower

50g peas

250ml dairy free cheese sauce or white sauce

about 100g grated cheese

This recipe is super-easy, and there are plenty of options if you want to “cheat” at making the sauce, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

To make a “proper” dairy free white sauce, use my easy three-ingredient recipe available here.

Method:

First, chop any large broccoli florets and cauliflower florets in half. Now put all the veg into a large saucepan and boil for about 10-15 mins until it’s soft.

While the veg are cooking, make your dairy-free white or cheese sauce.

Drain the veg and put into a large glass oven-safe dish (such as a Pyrex one).

Pour the sauce over the top.

Cover with grated cheese and bake at 160 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5/350F for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

Vegan white sauce recipe

White sauce is the foundation of most milk-based sauces, including cheese sauce, peppercorn sauce, bechamel sauce, parsley sauce and soups such as clam chowder (the white one).

I know this because, when I was 11 and learning Home Economics (now called the much edgier “food technology”) at school, I spent most of my time copying pages and pages out of textbooks while my classmates were busy cooking.

At my school, the teacher would buy the ingredients for us and we just had to bring in the money (usually about 80p-£1), or we could bring in the ingredients if we preferred. My mum refused to give me the money for the ingredients OR to buy the actual ingredients, which often left me not able to participate in home economics. The teacher, thinking I was just lazy, made me copy out of textbooks as a “punishment”.

I think I learned more from this than my classmates did. In my experience of attending 13 schools and 3 colleges, home economics teachers are singularly oblivious to the social issues that prevent children from learning. They all seem to be jolly-middle-class women who think everyone has “tagliatelle” at home.

I had been cooking for the whole family since the age of 9, but because I had never eaten a fairy cake, let alone made one, I was seen as “bad at cooking”, a label I internalized and carried with me into adulthood until I finally realized, at 27, I wasn’t bad at cooking, I just didn’t know how to cook the standard middle-class British dishes of the 1970s (which people still seem to judge us on today).

That’s fine, because people like that home economics teacher who think there’s one true way to cook “properly” are usually the first people to get upset about catering for dairy free guests, on the basis that they only know how to follow a bunch of recipes they learned at school or from Delia Smith (sorry, Delia, but you have some unimaginative readers).

So I took great pleasure in subverting white sauce for the vegan agenda and I hope you enjoy the fabulous results of using this sauce as a base for all your dairy-free milky sauce dishes that Western cuisine seems so obsessed with.

This dairy-free white sauce is very customizable, because it’s the base for so many other sauces. Leave it as-is for béchamel sauce (for lasagne/lasagna), or add things to make cheese, parsley, peppercorn sauces etc. It only requires three ingredients to make the basic sauce.

Ingredients:

25g Dairy-free butter

250ml Soy milk (other milks such as almond also work)

25g Flour

This will make enough sauce to cover two servings of cauliflower cheese. As you can see, the measurements are a ratio: For every gram of butter you need one gram of flour, and 10ml of dairy-free milk (add a bit more milk for a thinner sauce). This makes a very easy-to-scale recipe and I often measure my ingredients by eye, adding one part flour to one part butter, then I add the milk slowly from a big carton until I hit the right consistency.

Method:

Put the vegan butter in a saucepan and put it onto a medium heat. Melt the butter.

As the butter turns into a puddle but before it starts to bubble, add the flour gradually, stirring constantly. You are currently making something called a roux, which is the base of most thickened dishes.

Keep stirring (it might start to feel quite dry) until the roux turns crumbly and very slightly golden yellow (don’t let it burn). The quality of the roux will determine the quality of the finished sauce. If the roux turns brown, throw it away and start again.

The flour and butter should look like this.

Gradually add the non-dairy milk, a dash at a time (about a tablespoon’s worth, or a shot, if that’s easier to eyeball), stirring continuously. Only add more when the milk starts to thicken. I usually take the pan off the heat for this part because it’s easy to burn the milk. If you add the milk too quickly, you will get a LOT of lumps (some lumps are inevitable). Squash the lumps out with your fork.

Keep stirring the mixture until it’s a nice, thick, saucy consistency.

Now you’re done! It’s time to either serve it, if you’re making this as a béchamel sauce, or to add the other ingredients such as dairy-free cheese, if you’re making cheese sauce, or peppercorns, if you’re making pepper sauce.

Has your sauce gone lumpy? Fix it!

The main way this sauce can go wrong is if you end up with lots of lumps in a fairly watery sauce. There are two ways you can fix this:

Either use a fine-meshed sieve (if you have one; the sort with holes small enough to drain rice without any grains falling through) or a hand blender.

Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.

Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps.  It usually thickens a LOT when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency).  If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.