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So I’ve been ruminating on a riff on a crab cocktail for a while now and on the way to grab coffee this morning had a revelation by a magnolia tree. 

Magnolia flowers are totally edible and have a delectably subtle ginger taste. Here they are quick-pickled in a sweet coconut vinegar brine which quietens their floral quality a little. Texturally, they are perfect in a salad, and here mixed with thin ribbons of green papaya and matchsticks of kohlrabi. 

Sprinkles are a textural must when it comes to decent salad composition so here, on a Night + Market Kris Yenbamroog tip I fry up left over cooked jasmine rice pearls in hot coconut oil which are then hit with salt, sugar and lime zest.

The rice pearls and crab flakes mimic each other in a way that I was completely obsessed with and the toasted coconut flakes and rice powder sprinkled throughout gives the whole thing a subtle popcorn aroma. 

A totally elegant, super seasonal way to eat crab right now so I highly recommend you give it a whirl this weekend. 

Serves two

200g white crab meat
1-2 magnolia flowers, currently in bloom all across London so get to it 
Half kohlrabi – chopped into fine matchsticks
Quarter of a green papaya –  very thinly sliced into translucent ribbons on the mandolin 

For the quick pickle liquor 
1 cup of very water hot from the tap
1/2 cup of coconut vinegar / rice vinegar
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
3 tsp salt 

Dressing for crab 
100g kewpie mayo
Quarter of a lime juiced
2 tsp mirin
10g grated galangal
Lime zest
Pinch of salt

Dressing for kohlrabi and green papaya
Half juice of lime
3 tsp mirin
Pinch of salt. 

3 tbsp toasted jasmine rice powder
200g jasmine rice fried in coconut oil, seasoned with salt, sugar and lime zest

Begin with pickling: whisk sugar, vinegar and salt into hot water until dissolved and let magnolia petals sit in the liquor for half an hour while you prepare the rest. 

Meanwhile, put 100g of uncooked jasmine rice into non stick pan and leave to toast on a low to medium heat until reaches a golden brown colour and releases a popcorn aroma. Grind to a golden powder in pestle and mortar and set aside. 

Take 200g of cooked jasmine rice (cold; day old is best) and fry in hot coconut oil until just reaching golden, drain on paper, breaking up the grains and hit with salt, sugar and lime zest from the microplane. Set aside. 

Mix all the dressing ingredients together for the crab. Grate galangal and lime zest into kewpie and squeeze lime, adding the mirin. Season to taste. 

On the finest setting on the mandolin, slice the green papaya to create translucent ribbons.

Julienne your kohlrabi and leave in ice water until ready to compose salad.

For the kohlrabi and papaya dressing, simply mix the mirin and lime to taste. 

Now you are ready to compose: first, mix the crab with the kewpie dressing in a small bowl. 

Drain your kohlrabi and mix with green papaya in lime and mirin dressing.

Start to stack your salad in layers, alternating the petals of magnolia, kohlrabi, green papaya, crab, toasted coconut flakes, crispy jasmine rice and toasted rice powder.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over at the end. 

Hannah Hammond is a London-based chef currently working at Leo’s on Chatsworth Road. Photography by Hannah Hammond.

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