PUBLISHED: 13:44 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:26 20 February 2013
Two brothers have successfully launched Seafood & Eat It, a growing company that produces a range of sustainable, locally sourced crab. In this October issue we visit the company to find out more.
Brothers Richard Corner and Neville Pittman, who started their Seafood & Eat It company from scratch, are now supplying Waitrose with Cornish handpicked crab. The duo started the company back in 2002 after Neville, a former skipper, had a serious accident at sea, leaving him unable to fish.
"I was a crab fisherman for about 12 years and I fished off Grimsby and the Channel Islands before Newlyn," he says.
Born in Buckinghamshire and brought up in Gosport, Hampshire, Neville spent the last four years of his fishing career in Cornwall where he discovered there was a demand for good-quality crab meat. "On my days off from fishing I started taking crab home, cooking it up in my kitchen and selling it to local restaurants. Demand spiralled and about that time I had the accident. That's when Richard came down here - he'd just come back from travelling in South America and came down to Cornwall to help me out and we brought crab home and picked it together."
While fishing and dealing with crabs was second nature to Neville, Richard, a former recruitment consultant, says he felt like "a fish out of water" when they first started - although he had always enjoyed fine food and cooking. "We both needed to earn some money and it was what Nev knew," he says. "Then one of the local fish merchants got wind of what we were doing and told us there was a demand for fresh crab meat, and we just got going. It was one of those things that happened by chance - we never planned it - we just found a little niche in the market."
With financial backing from the Prince's Trust, they started supplying restaurants in Newlyn, Penzance and St Ives, and before long they'd found a unit, where Neville is still based, and word spread. "We started supplying some companies and wholesalers in London and around the country. We've just launched into Waitrose, which is a dream come true. There has been no shortage of patience and guidance from the supermarket and the deal will grow the business by 70%."
Currently, the Seafood & Eat It range consists of three lines: Handpicked Potted Cornish Crab, Handpicked Brown Cornish Crab, and Handpicked White Cornish Crab.
Richard believes the secret of their success is simplicity. "We just cook the crab, take the meat out and pack it," he explains. "A lot of companies that produce crab are fairly well established, and I think over the years they've worked out all the tricks of the trade that allow them to cut corners, and they've lost that fresh edge. Coming into it as we did, without a history in the industry, we had to learn everything from scratch and the flavour is much fresher." "Handpicked crab is special because you get nice big chunks of meat, whereas machine-picked crab tends to break down into tiny fibres," Neville explains. "Also, Cornish crab is different from crab from other places because we're stuck right out in the Atlantic here, in fresh, clean water and there's an abundant supply.
"When Richard and I founded Seafood & Eat It six years ago, we set out to champion crab and rejoice in the fact that it is found in abundance around our coastline. Using traditional methods, we are able to deliver a product that is packed with natural flavour."
Crab meat is high in Omega 3, with just one of Seafood & Eat It's crab pots containing more than two-thirds of the recommended weekly Omega 3 intake. "You can eat the white crab meat with salad, or in a sandwich with lemon, pepper and a bit of mayonnaise," says Richard. "It's also good in a chilli crab linguine, which is made by stirring crab meat, cherry tomatoes, spring onion, chilli, lemon juice and black pepper into some linguine pasta. The brown crab meat can be used as a dip because of its texture, or spread on crusty bread or toast. The potted crab can be treated almost like a pesto. Just add a spoonful to hot pasta," he adds.
Another tasty way to eat brown crab is to make crab strudel. To do this, mix brown crab with a little cream, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, black pepper and chopped parsley; ensure the mixture is kept quite thick. Brush some melted butter over sheets of filo pastry and cut into 5cm strips. Place a dollop of the mixture at one end of the strip. Form a triangle by folding the right-hand corner to the opposite side, then fold from the left corner to the right edge. Brush each one with a little butter, place on a greased baking tray and bake at a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Why not try a crab bake? This is made by mixing brown crab with breadcrumbs, some crme frache, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, a drop of Tabasco and some chopped coriander. Pack into a ramekin, cover with grated Parmesan or Gruyre cheese and bake in the oven on a medium heat for 10 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has melted.
For a dish using white crab, mix white crab, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper together. Separately, mash an avocado and add a pinch of salt. Using a chef's ring, layer the avocado, cover with a layer of crab, then add a further layer of each and chill in the fridge until serving. Garnish with a handful of watercress or rocket leaves and drizzle with a little good olive oil.
Seafood & Eat It, www.seafoodandeatit.co.uk