Brunch! Boiled Eggs and Tabasco butter soldiers; Feta, Corn & Tabasco Cakes; Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs; Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise
Brunch is my thing. I have brunch everyday when I am at home. I am a sleepy morning creature and my body is not ready for anything except coffee for the first few hours. I have always been like this. My body likes evenings and night time, and while early morning is beautiful and, increasingly, I do wish I was a morning person, it is not when I am at my best.
I am great at brunch though. I love it. My body is awake and hungry and eager to eat. Often eggs. Almost always with some chilli. I love a brunch dish that packs some heat (as you will have seen regularly on my instagram). Eggs never cease to amaze me with the amount you can do with them. Fried, poached, boiled, gooey, oozy, spread on toast soldiers. Eggs are brilliant when you force fat into them, as you do when you make hollandaise or mayonnaise. Eggs also love Tabasco, so when Tabasco asked me to come up some recipes and host a brunch for my friends to showcase them, it had to be an eggy one.
I started to think about what a brunch might look like in Louisiana. I have never been – and must rectify that – but I am very familiar with their wonderful cuisine. I wanted to do something with an oozy poached egg and a Tabasco hollandaise and decided on crab cakes with the holy trinity of cajun cuisine (bell peppers, celery and onion, finely diced) and some cajun spices (cumin, coriander, paprika) with a splash of some Tabasco.
Tabasco is a great store cupboard ingredient. There are only 3 ingredients in the Tabasco Original Red (which I used for this recipe), Tabasco peppers, distilled vinegar and small amount of salt. These are mashed and aged for up to 3 years in oak barrels. Each barrel is tasted by a member of the McIlhenny family before passing muster and reaching bottle. The result is a gentle pepper sauce (although they also do have hotter ones), which is a great flavour enhancer for any dish.. Tabasco is made on an island, Avery island, and is currently managed by the fifth generation of the McIlhenny family. I really need to visit, more so now.
Making the Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs. With homemade Tabasco mayonnaise, of course!
Whatever possessed me to make hollandaise for 12 people? Well there you go, I did it. My second batch split as I had too many recipes on the go and wasn’t paying as much attention as I should. (Hollandaise requires your full attention, it is a needy brute but it is worth it). But, this is a good thing as I rescued it (quickly and easily) so I know for sure that you can make it and rescue it too if you need to (see the recipe for details).
Making the Tabasco, Feta & Corn Cakes
A brunch like this is my favourite way to cook for people. First thing in the morning I made my way to ace fishmonger, Rex Goldsmith, to pick up fresh picked white crab meat and some massive whole crabs that they had cooked for me. And then I spent the day cooking. We started with Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs (lets bring the devilled egg back!) and a Bloody Mary. Then some of those lovely crab cakes, poached eggs and Tabasco hollandaise with some fizz. Scattered between some boiled and dippy soft eggs with Tabasco buttered soldiers (I like some hard boiled too to mash into the toast) and some corn, crab, Tabasco and feta fritters (the creamy salty feta loves some chilli heat, sweet corn and a taste of the sea with it).
Finally, the star of the show. Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise.
Such fun, and I encourage you to recreate it. Let me know how you get on!
RECIPE: Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise
500g fresh crab meat (white or a mixture of white and brown for richer flavour)
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
a generous splash of Tabasco Original Red (to taste)
50g & 25g breadcrumbs (I like Japanese panko breadcrumbs – look out for them)
light oil for frying
4 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
a generous splash of Tabasco
4 eggs, for poaching
sea salt and black pepper for seasoning
Sauté the Cajun holy trinity – the bell pepper, red onion and celery – in the butter and a tablespoon of oil (the butter for flavour and the oil for heat and to stop the butter from burning) until starting to soften. Add the spices for a minute or so and stir through. Remove from the heat and combine with the crab, a generous splash of Tabasco, one egg and 25g of panko. It is a loose mix for a very crabby pattie so put it in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up and make it easier to shape.
If making poached eggs for a number of people it is easier to make them in advance and keep them in iced water until you need them. Poached eggs aren’t complicated but they can be tricky. You need very fresh eggs, and if your eggs aren’t fresh enough, a splash of vinegar to tighten the white as it poaches. The water needs to be just before the boil, at a gentle simmer. You can do them one by one for the best shape, stirring the water to create a little whirlpool before cracking the egg in (it is easier to crack the egg into a ramekin and bowl first if you are not used to doing this). Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still soft and oozy. Reheat for just about 30 seconds in hot water to serve. For less perfectly shaped but easier poached eggs, fill a frying pan with water and bring to the boil. Turn it off and crack the eggs into the water. They will be perfectly poached about 10 minutes later, but keep an eye on them, they are done when the white is just set, as above.
Shape your crab mixture into 4 cakes and gently dip them in the flour, then beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs. If they are very loose and this is difficult, freeze them for half an hour before doing this. Fry in some of the oil over a medium heat until crisp on both sides. Keep warm in a medium oven while preparing your hollandaise, which must be made at the last minute.
Hollandaise! It is a faff but it is worth it. You see egg yolks don’t like when you try to force fat into them. They like to split and be difficult. But made with care and attention, it will be fine, and even if it splits, I know how you can fix it. Melt the butter and skim off the milk solids that form at the top. Prepare a pot of boiling water and in a bowl that fits over it (but doesn’t touch it) whisk the egg yolks, water and vinegar vigorously for a few minutes until it pales in colour and starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and slowly add the melted butter, a half ladelful at a time, whisking vigorously as you do. When finished add a splash of Tabasco and season to taste. If it splits at any point, in another bowl whisk an egg yolk and teaspoon of water, and add the split hollandaise slowly, whisking in as you do. It works a treat.
Reheat your poached eggs in a pot of boiling water and serve on top of the crab cakes with a generous pour of hollandaise, and some more tabasco. You know you want to!
Photography by Jacob Milligan.