The crab doughnuts at Chiltern Firehouse are iconic – and now you can try your hand at making your own with this recipe from chef Nuno Mendes.
For the doughnuts:
- 540g strong white flour, plus extra to dust
- 70g caster sugar
- 2tsp Maldon sea salt, plus 1 tbsp to dust
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 140ml water, at room temperature
- 4 large free range eggs
- Grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
- 130g unsalted butter, thinly sliced and chilled
- 500ml sunflower oil, for deep frying, plus extra for greasing
- 3 tbsp icing sugar, to dust
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, to dust
For the tomato juice:
- 10 beef tomatoes, or the largest variety you can find
- 2 cloves garlic, green germ removed and cloves chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- ¼ red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- Maldon sea salt, to taste
For the crab doughnut filling:
200g picked white crab meat (from the claws)
2 tbsp tomato juice
2 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
2½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Maldon sea salt, to taste
To make the doughnuts:
- Place the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and mix at slow speed. In a separate bowl, combine the water, eggs, and lemon zest.
- Slowly add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, with the mixer at slow speed, until it forms a dough. Increase the speed and knead for 10-12 minutes, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic.
- Reduce the speed to slow and add the butter, a slice at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, increase the speed, and knead for a further 5-6 minutes, until you have a smooth dough. You can make the dough warm by hand, but you need to work quickly, to make sure the dough doesn’t get too warm.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place it in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight, to allow the dough to rest and prove slowly. The next day, oil a baking sheet. Roll the dough to a 2cm thickness on a lightly floured work surface and cut out 8 x 3cm circles. Roll each circle into a ball and place them on the oiled baking sheet. Cover and leave to prove for about 2-3 hours.
- Fill a deep saucepan or deep-fat fryer with the sunflower oil (so it’s roughly half filled with oil), and place over a medium heat until it reaches 175˚C. Deep-fry the doughnuts, four at a time, for 2-3 minutes, basting them constantly with the oil until they are golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper, to drain.
To make the tomato juice:
Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Grate the flesh of the tomatoes on the side of a box grater over a bowl. Place the grated tomato flesh in the bowl of a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, or use a stick blender. Transfer the mixture to a muslin cloth and hang the cloth over a bowl for 2 hours.
To make the crab filling:
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and chill until ready to assemble.
Assemble and serve:
Cut each doughnut in half and fill it with the chilled crab mixture. Mix the icing sugar in a bowl with the cinnamon and salt and dust the doughnuts with the mix. Serve immediately (the doughnuts won’t keep for long once filled).
The quantity of doughnut dough will give you more doughnuts than you need. The leftover dough can be cut into 5-6cm circles, and deep-fried until golden brown, then coated in sugar for a quick treat. The doughnut is a perfect vehicle for any type of filling or dip. Roll them in vanilla-cinnamon sugar as soon as they come out of the deep fat fryer. Serve them with a vanilla pastry cream custard flavoured with the grated zest of an orange and a lemon and spiked with aged rum.
A savoury alternative is to cook a mix of Japanese mushrooms with rosemary, butter, mirin and soy sauce, chop them into a rough paste, stuff the doughnuts with the mix and dust them with dehydrated ground black trumpet mushroom mixed together with icing sugar, salt, and 5-spice powder (3 parts icing sugar to 1 part salt and 1 part 5-spice).