With brown crabs at their very best right now, Philippa Davis' gnocchi with crab and watercress sauce is a delicious starter for spring suppers, and not as tricky to make as you might think

Gnocchi with crab and watercress sauce makes a great starter if you are holding a spring supper. Brown crabs are at their best and gnocchi is not as hard to make as it seems. Try Philippa Davis’ recipe for gnocchi with crab and watercress sauce.

For another starter perfect for spring, try bass ceviche: a zesty and refreshing starter.


Brown crabs should be at their tastiest right now and make a great sauce for this starter. Gnocchi are much easier than you think: the trick is to bake the potatoes on a bed of salt to keep them as dry as possible.

Serves 4

  • 100g rock salt
  • 800g King Edward or other good baking potato, pricked all over
  • 150g plain flour plus some for rolling and cutting
  • 1 tsp fine sea-salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

Crab sauce

  • 300g tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1 tbs vermouth
  • 150g white crab meat
  • 50g brown crab meat
  • 100g chopped watercress
  • Juice of 1⁄4 lemon

To make gnocchi with crab and watercress sauce, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Pour the rock salt into a dish and place the potato on top. Bake for an hour or until cooked.

Tip the flour and sea-salt into a large bowl. While the potatoes are still hot peel them and push them through a fine sieve or potato ricer on to the flour. Add the egg and bring the mixture together into a dough with as little fuss as possible – like pastry, it does not benefit from handling.

Scatter a little of the extra flour on to the worktop.

Flatten the dough to make a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Cut it into 1cm strips then into 1.5cm oblongs. Press each one with a fork then lay them on a lightly floured tray.

To make the crab sauce, remove the tomato skins by briefly blanching them in a pan of boiling water, then chop roughly.

In a pan gently fry the garlic in the olive oil till just coloured.

Add the fennel seeds and chilli then the chopped tomatoes and vermouth. Cook for one minute. Then add the crab, season the mix with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi in two batches, wait for the pan to reboil then count to 15. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and add to the crab sauce. Once it’s all cooked add the watercress and a squeeze of lemon, stir well and serve the gnocchi with crab and watercress sauce immediately.