crab with avocado, sesame wafers and grapefruit dressing

our starter last weekend was this crab and avocado stack with sesame wafers and a grapefruit dressing. it’s based on a recipe from shane osborn’s starters, a lovely little book which provides recipes for all sorts of starters, most of which can be adapted and turned into main courses.

when i was looking for a starter i looked at a few recipes and kept being drawn to crab and avocado combinations – there was a suzanne goin one which includes beetroot and a gordon ramsay one which has pink grapefruit in it. it was the grapefruit that really caught my eye and so i added it to the crab mix and used it as the basis for the dressing (rather than tomato given they are all still so bland at this time of year).

the resulting dish had  a wonderful freshness and was a lovely light starter.

crab with avocado, sesame wafers and grapefruit dressing* (serves 8)

1 pink grapefruit

300-400g white crab meat (i used the white meat from a dressed crab plus a tin of white crab meat)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of shredded basil leaves

2 teaspoons of finely chopped coriander leaves

zest of 1 lime

for the wafers:

2-4 sheets of filo pastry

25g butter, melted

1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, toasted

for the dressing:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper

for the avocado crème:

1 ripe avocado

25g crème fraiche

squeeze of lime juice

to finish:

delicate salad leaves

peel the grapefruit to remove the pith then, over a bowl, cut along each side of each segment so you remove the flesh but leave the pith behind – put the flesh into a separate bowl. once all the segments are removed squeeze the remaining pith into the bowl – this plus any juice that gathers in the pith bowl should be set aside for your salad dressing. using two forks break up the grapefruit flesh into small pieces (individual “drops” of the flesh will be less obvious to taste than small ½ cm pieces – do whatever you prefer).

having checked the crab meat for shell, mix it with the grapefruit, olive oil, herbs and lime zest. taste and add seasoning if needed. set aside.

to make the wafers, preheat the oven to 180c. using a round metal cutter cut circles of filo pastry out and place them on a baking tray that is lined with baking parchment (the shane osborn recipe suggest using a 6cm cutter, i think you want something a bit bigger so that a single stack doesn’t feel like too small a starter). brush the pastry circles with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. cover with another sheet of baking parchment and cover with another baking sheet to weigh things down. bake for about 5-7 minutes until the wafers are golden. carefully remove from the baking sheet and leave to cool. you will need to repeat this until you have 24 discs of crispy pastry (if you want to do a test run make an extra three discs).

to make the dressing, mix two tablespoons of the grapefruit juice with the olive oil and seasoning; taste and add more grapefruit juice/oil until you have a flavour that you like. if you want to sweeten things up add a pinch of sugar.

for the avocado crème, peel, stone and then remove the avocado flesh. chop this and blend in a mixer with a couple of tablespoons of cold water until smooth. transfer to a bowl, stir in the crème fraiche and then add some salt and the lime juice gradually, tasting until you get something you are happy with. cover with cling film to prevent discoloration.

to assemble, when you are ready to serve, place a layer of crab meat on the plate (in the photo, which was my test run, putting the wafer first meant that the tower was unstable), top with a wafer. add the avocado crème, not going to the edge of the pastry disc as it will spread out when you add the next layer. assemble your next crab-topped wafer on a board and top this with the final wafer. dress your salad leaves and top each tower with the wafer-crab-wafer layer and top with a small amount of salad. spoon a little dressing around the stack then serve.

* based on a shane osborn recipe