Crab & fennel tart recipe

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Crab and fennel tart recipe


Serves 6

For the pastry:

  • 100g butter, cut into squares
  • 175g plain flour
  • 50g Parmesan, grated on the small grate
  • Pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 300g baking beans or 300g rice and baking parchment


For the filling:

  • 220g crab meat (110g white and 110g brown)
  • 1 fennel, grated on the large grate and the top herbs chopped
  • 1 courgette, grated on the large grate
  • 50g parmesan, grated on the small grate
  • 100ml cream
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 small bunch of chives, chopped
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper or dried chilli flakes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch Maldon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


You will need a food processor, cling film and a flan or tart tin, ideally non-stick with a detachable bottom.


Prep time: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes resting
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Crab & fennel tart recipe

I used to make a Nick Nairn’s Crab, Leek and Parmesan tart from his book New Scottish Cookery when we ran The Colonsay on Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides to use up all the delicious fresh crab that we had. Now that we are living by the sea again, it’s such a pleasure to make it again. However, this is my new and improved version. Over the years I’ve come to realise that I don’t like leeks (they’re not good for my tummy), and have substituted them for the lighter flavours of fennel and courgette which, personally, I think go better with crab. I’ve also added in the brown meat as to me, the brown meat is what really makes crab taste like crab, and when it’s cooked it creates a deep moreish fishiness, the kind you get from lobsters. The lemon zest is to lift all the flavours, and the cream, well, I think it’s needed here. See what you think.


First make the pastry. Add the flour, butter and grated Parmesan to the food processor and season well with salt and pepper.

Blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and blitz again until the pastry comes together in a ball. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. This will make the pastry short and flaky.

Preheat the oven to 180/350/gas 4. Take the pastry out of the fridge and slice it thinly. Press the slices into the buttered flan dish like a jigsaw and firmly push and manoeuvre the pieces together using the tips of your fingers. Cut smaller slices for the sides and repeat until the whole of the tart tin is covered in pastry.

On top of the pastry, line the flan dish with a big square of baking parchment large enough to cover it all. Add in the baking beans or rice to the baking parchment and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry has started to go golden brown.

This is called ‘baking blind’ and gives you a nice crust on the bottom of your quiche. The baking beans act as a weight, ensuring the pastry doesn’t rise while cooking. You can store them in a container with the baking parchment once you’ve finished with them and use them again and again.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until broken and combined. Add the white and brown crab meat, grated fennel, grated courgette, grated Parmesan, cream, cayenne pepper or chilli flakes, zest of lemon, spring onion, chives, chopped fennel herbs, Maldon sea salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Once the pastry is golden brown, add the crab mixture to the pastry case and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and firm to the touch.

The tart will rise during cooking and sink as it cools.

This delicious served warm with dressed green leaves and some sort of fresh vegetable slaw. Enjoy!



You can either use fresh crab or packaged white and brown meat here. There are a number of options in the supermarket these days. Stick to the fresh packets rather than tinned crab and it will be delicious. Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, when you can either heat it through again or enjoy it at room temperature (leave it on the side for 10 minutes before eating). It’s best not served cold straight from the fridge.”

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