Crab, avocado, broad bean and grilled gem lettuce salad

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I first had grilled lettuce with a roast chicken dish in Copenhagen and wondered why I had never cooked it this way before. Grilling the base ingredient of a salad may not be the most obvious move but the slight char and caramelisation you get from the lettuce really pairs well with crab.

Salad cream – or ‘white ketchup’ as it’s known in our family – makes an appearance here, too. I know it’s not fashionable, but the vinegar kick of salad cream complements the grilled lettuce so well. If the idea of using salad cream absolutely horrifies you, simply leave it out.

Ingredients

  • handful of broad beans (about 75 g), podded
  • 1 baby gem lettuce head, quartered lengthways
  • light olive or vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 1 small ripe avocado, halved, stoned and flesh sliced
  • 100–120 g white and brown crab meat (1 portion)
  • ½ cucumber, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

To serve (optional)

  • Tabasco
  • salad cream, vinaigrette or mayonnaise
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small unwaxed lemon
  • Melba toasts or similar (optional)

Method

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the broad beans and cook for a few minutes, then drain and transfer to a bowl of iced water to cool, so they keep their vibrant colour. Drain and pop the beans out of their skins into a bowl.

Heat a skillet or frying pan over a medium heat or preheat the grill to medium. Lightly brush the lettuce quarters with oil then fry or grill for a minute on each side, until golden brown (if grilling, watch carefully to make sure they don’t scorch).

Place the lettuce pieces on a plate or in a wide, shallow pasta bowl. Top with the avocado, broad beans and crab meat. Add the cucumber ribbons and scatter over the chopped red chilli.

Finishing the dish is a matter of personal taste: drizzle over a little Tabasco, salad cream or whatever condiment you fancy. Be judicious. You want the crab to be the star of the dish, and the condiment to coax all the flavours together. Season to taste (a spritz of lemon zest never goes amiss in a crabby salad). Serve with toast, if you like.