Crab Soup

Preparation info

  • Makes 2.25-2.7 litres 4-5 pints to give


    • Difficulty


Appears in

A Feast of Fish

A Feast of Fish

By Ian McAndrew

Published 1989

  • About

I always prefer to use a live crab for this recipe, but a lot of people will find this offputting. A cooked crab can be used instead, although the flavour will not be as strong. Crab shells that have been saved from another day can also be used, but once again the flavour will not be as good – in fact, if you are only using saved shells, then either cut down on the amount of liquid added or use at least a third more shells.


  • 1 X 1.5 kg/3-3½ lb live crab
  • 225 g/8 oz onions
  • 225 g/8 oz leeks
  • 115 g/4 oz carrots
  • 225 g/8 oz celery
  • 1 head garlic
  • 25 ml/1 fl oz oil
  • 50 g/2 oz flour
  • 175 g/6 oz tomato purée
  • 175 ml/6 fl oz brandy
  • 85 ml/3 fl oz Pernod
  • 300 ml/½ pint dry white wine
  • 3.5 litres/6 pints fish stock
  • sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A few parsley stalks
  • 10 g/¼ oz white peppercorns
  • ½ tsp saffron


    Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

    Rinse the crab in fresh cold water. Using a large heavy knife or cleaver and one swift blow, cut the crab in two through the middle of its body between the eyes and parallel with its legs. Break the legs away from the body, remove the dead men’s fingers and discard; everything else can be used, juices as well. Leave the claws and the arms of the crab whole, but break everything else up into small pieces. Wash, peel and roughly chop the vegetables and cut the garlic into small pieces. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan, add the vegetables and garlic, cover with a lid and sweat until they start to go soft. Add the crab, cover and sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Sprinkle the flour over the contents of the pan, but do not stir in, then place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes to singe the flour. Dot the tomato purée across the top of the flour but do not stir in. Place the pan back in the oven for a further 5 minutes to singe the tomato purée. Turn the oven down to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Remove the pan from the oven, add the brandy and Pernod, ignite and burn off the alcohol. Add the white wine, fish stock and the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover and return to the oven to barely simmer for 3 hours. After 15 minutes, remove the whole claws and leave to cool. When cold, crack and remove the meat, put to one side and return the shells to the soup.

    After 3 hours strain the soup through a sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to ensure that every drop is drained.