Fried blue swimmer crab balls with chilli sauce

"Cassava (known as manioc or, in Rio, aipim) is a major ingredient in Brazilian cooking, and versions of bolinhos - fried balls - are found in all the best botecos in Rio," says Burgess. "Usually dried meat is used, but we've chosen crab to lighten it up and make the most of seafood at its peak in winter through spring. Blue swimmer crab is very Rio, too, so it just seems right somehow. The molho, or sauce, is a tropical addition to the snack, and is a mix between Portugal and the New World. Think of an aromatic piri piri sauce but with much more complexity."

You'll need

600 gm cassava, peeled, cut into large dice (see note) 2 egg yolks 2 tsp unsalted butter 20 gm plain flour Grapeseed oil, for deep-frying Fresh curry leaves, to serve   Chilli sauce 100 gm smoked tomatoes (see note) 75 ml rice vinegar 2 tbsp grapeseed oil 2 tbsp melted coconut oil 1 small onion, coarsely chopped 5 long red chillies, coarsely chopped 1 garlic clove, peeled 2 fresh bay leaves 1 tsp rapadura sugar (see note) ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg   Blue swimmer crab filling 2 tbsp olive oil ½ small onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped 1 tbsp finely sliced fresh curry leaves 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, toasted 250 ml (1 cup) tomato passata 250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk 150 ml crab or fish stock 200 gm blue swimmer crab meat 1/3 cup finely chopped tarragon 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  • 01
  • For chilli sauce, process ingredients and 2 tsp sea salt in a blender to a fine purée, season to taste and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Chilli sauce will keep refrigerated for a month.
  • 02
  • For blue swimmer crab filling, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion, garlic, curry leaves and mustard seeds and sauté until translucent (3-4 minutes). Add passata, coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half (10-15 minutes). Add crab and simmer gently until just cooked (3-4 minutes). Add herbs, season to taste, then chill (1 hour).
  • 03
  • Boil cassava in a saucepan of salted water until tender (40-45 minutes), then drain, season with salt, and mash to a paste. Cool to room temperature, beat in yolks, butter and flour, season to taste and beat to form a smooth dough.
  • 04
  • Flatten ¼ cup of cassava mixture in the palm of your hand to form a rough 8cm round. Place a heaped teaspoonful of crab mixture in the centre, then roll and pinch the cassava mixture around to enclose. Roll into a ball and place on a tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate while you repeat with remaining mixture.
  • 05
  • Heat oil in a deep saucepan to 180C. Deep-fry crab balls in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown (8-10 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Add a sprig of curry leaves to oil and fry until crisp (30 seconds). Drain balls on paper towels, season to taste, scatter with curry leaves and serve hot with chilli sauce.

Cassava is available from Latin American and Indian grocers. Smoked tomatoes are available from select delicatessens; if they're unavailable, substitute semi-dried tomatoes and add 1 tsp smoked paprika. Rapadura sugar is available from health-food shops and Latin American grocers. 

At A Glance

  • Serves 16 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 16 people

Featured in

Jul 2016

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