Friday, August 29, 2008


Winter warmers: crab meat and asparagus soup

20 minutes
Serves: two

1 bunch fresh asparagus spears
2 tins crab meat or freshly-cooked equivalent
Vegeta (vegetable stock)
1 egg
1 lemon

This month on Cooking With Art Director we are going to explore soup.

At one time i found myself going out with a dark-haired, skinny girl, whom i shall call Tanya, because that was her name. Tanya didn't eat much, which in those days was a common trait amongst those skinny, attractive girls with expensive drug habits. One day, dining with Tanya in a cheap Vietnamese restaurant, i discovered that one of her all-time favourite dishes was crab meat and asparagus soup. She had a plate of it in front of her.

"Mmm, this is good," says Tanya, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. "This is my favourite."

Let me have a look at that, i said, pulling the plate over and scrutinising it. The dish appeared to contain crab, asparagus, and other bits of stuff floating in it that looked like egg. I tasted it, and apart from the subtle flavour of crab and asparagus, it tasted of lemon with a hint of msg. How hard can this be, i thought.

After some experimentation, i discovered a secret ingredient: Vegeta, that vegetable soup stock in the blue tub with a picture of a chef on the front twirling a moustache. This instant soup stock from Croatia has the added benefit of msg to give that elusive and authentic cheap Vietnamese restaurant flavour.

Once you've located a tub of Vegeta at your local supermarket, gather some asparagus. One way to tell where the succulent part of a asparagus ends and the woody part begins is to snap it near the base. Where it snaps is precisely that point. Keep the long pointy end and throw away the rest. While this theory is not based on any science, it certainly looks and sounds impressive. Chop the spears into thumbnail-sized pieces but leave the tips intact.

Fill a pot with enough water to make two decent-sized bowls of soup. Or so. I don't know. We're making soup, not something critical like meringue or N,N-dimethyl-5-hydroxy-tryptamine. So see how you go, you can add a bit more water later if the consistency is too thick. Just chuck the chopped asparagus in and boil until really soft - about 10 minutes or so. At some point, and i don't really care when, throw in a tablespoon of vegeta.

Next, open a bottle of cabernet merlot and pour out a couple of good-sized glasses.

Once the asparagus is soft, things just get easier. Bring the heat down to a light simmer, and tip in two tins of crab meat. Then fish the papery bits from the bottom of the tins out of the soup. If you're lucky enough to live in Carnarvon, forget the tins - just throw in a handful of freshly-cooked meat from those blue swimmer crabs that you can just grab out of the water at Miaboolya Beach.

Using one hand, crack an egg and drop it in with a flourish. Give this a bit of a whisk with a fork. The egg will combine with the crab meat to give it a more interesting texture while doing wonders for your cholesterol. Once the egg is cooked, say in a couple of minutes or so, squeeze in the juice of a small lemon or, better still, a lime. Ladle the soup into bowls while singing "Oh Lordy pick a bale of cotton." Don't be shy with the cracked pepper.

"Mmm, this is good," says Tanya, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. "You know, this is my favourite."

Crab meat and asparagus soup. For when you've had all the sex and drugs you can take.

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