recipe

A circular bread shape holds chopped white onion and cherry tomato halves, surrounded by silver foil. It is in the prep stage and is not yet cooked.
A white plate holds a singular slice of light brown-red crab pudding, with a basil leaf on top and a fork slicing off a small part
A kitchen bench holds a myriad of objects; a crab-shell shaped bread pudding sits at the top, sliced partially by a knife, with a portion on a white plate below, several glasses filled with wine and some yellow and red tomatoes off to the side
A circular bread shape holds chopped white onion and cherry tomato halves, surrounded by silver foil. It is in the prep stage and is not yet cooked. A white plate holds a singular slice of light brown-red crab pudding, with a basil leaf on top and a fork slicing off a small part
A kitchen bench holds a myriad of objects; a crab-shell shaped bread pudding sits at the top, sliced partially by a knife, with a portion on a white plate below, several glasses filled with wine and some yellow and red tomatoes off to the side
Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Tomato and crab summer pudding

David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Not so long ago – in the grand scheme of things – aspic was common in celebratory recipes. Fancy ingredients set in the jelly-like substance smacked of decadence and contrived decoration.

Aspic was originally derived from meat stock that was cooled to create a gelatine, and later there were alternatives such as agar-agar or other seaweed-derived setting agents.

But aspic has lost favour of late. I therefore take the bold step here of presenting an aspic recipe that will demand attention and detract from potentially undesirable family Christmas conversations. It’s one of the few times I gild the lily so I’m taking advantage of the moment and going wild.

This dish sits somewhere between summer pudding and gazpacho. I season it in a similar manner to gazpacho and serve it alongside other chilled seafood. It is also very similar to the classic Italian bread salad, panzanella. Or, if you grew up dipping your ham sandwich into Rosella tomato soup, this flavour will not be unfamiliar.

The festive season is a great time to not take ourselves too seriously and to have a bit of fun with food. The list of ingredients that can be set in jelly is endless.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 as a starter

Time: 1 hour preparation + 20 minutes cooking

  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 20ml sherry vinegar
  • 20g brown sugar
  • 200ml water
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 leaves titanium gelatine
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cob loaf of bread
  • a little oil
  • 10 leaves parsley
  • 10 leaves marjoram (or tarragon/chervil)
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 300g crab meat
  • cream, to serve
  • horseradish, to serve
  • salted capers, to serve
Method
  1. Sweat the onion and garlic in a pot for two minutes until translucent and then add the chopped capsicum and tomatoes.
  2. Cook this down until most of the liquid dissipates. Add the vinegar and the sugar and then the 200 millilitres of water. Bring all this to the boil, then blend and pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Season as you would season soup.
  3. Soak the gelatine in cold water and then add to the warm puree to dissolve.
  4. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the cherry tomatoes in this for a count of five. Lift the tomatoes onto a tray and let them cool slightly before peeling the skin off with a small knife.
  5. Cut the crust off the bread loaf (discard the crust or save it for breadcrumbs), then shape it to fit whatever vessel you plan to build the pudding in. For effect, I use a clam shell, which measures roughly 16 centimetres across and is three centimetres deep. Slice the bread into five-millimetre widths and retain for assembly.
  6. Line your bowl or mould for making the pudding with a double layer of cling film. Use a small amount of oil to make it more pliable. Layer the bottom with a third of the herbs and olives. Soak a slice of bread in the tomato juice mixture, place it over the herbs on the bottom and press down lightly. Top this with a third of the crab meat and a third of the cherry tomatoes (cut in half if larger), then top with another layer of soaked bread. Repeat the process until you have used up all the mix. I find three layers to be ideal but you may need to adjust the amount for the layers depending on the size of your mould.
  7. Refrigerate your pudding with a light, evenly distributed weight on top (a snug-fitting plate is ideal). Cool for at least two hours before flipping the pudding out of the mould to serve.
  8. Serve with cream whipped with horseradish and salted capers as a starter to a Christmas meal.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 10, 2022 as "Set for Christmas".

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