It's hard to get soft-shell crab in England that is fresh – almost all that comes in is frozen, but it still tastes delicious. Deep-fried and crunchy, though, is a must – it is not conducive to any other method of cooking, so you will also need a deep-fryer and corn oil that is scrupulously clean. We cooked these the other night at Sean's. We allowed one per person as a first course, which was perfect – they are a little too rich in flavour for much more than that.
4 soft-shell crabs
For the mint and chilli dressing
1 red chilli, deseeded, very finely chopped
1 small bunch of mint, leaves only, finely chopped
80ml/3fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
A good pinch of salt
The juice of half a lemon
For the batter
150g/5oz plain flour
150ml/5fl oz iced soda water
First make the dressing. Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Fill your deep-fat fryer with corn oil and heat it to 160C/325F. Sieve both the plain flour and cornflour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the soda water and mix together lightly with your fingertips. The batter should be lumpy – it makes it lighter in the hot oil.
When the oil is hot, dredge the crab through the batter and drop directly into the hot oil. Cook until golden-brown and crunchy – approximately two minutes.
Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Serve while piping hot with the mint and chilli dressing and a wedge of lemon.