Sweet potato crab cakes with sweet chilli sauce

My husband never used to think that he liked fish (or crab) cakes so it was a proud moment when I first made him fish cakes that he liked.  The trick I found was making them quite light and crispy but full of strong and tangy flavours.  This means that I tend to use Asian flavours, and as sweet chilli sauce is one of our all time favourites it was inevitable that one day the two would meet.  The sweet chilli sauce here is one of my fall-back recipes as it is very quick and easy to make and makes an excellent accompaniment to a large range of dishes.  It is also sugar-free (or low in sugar if you use sugar instead of stevia) which makes it a healthy alternative to shop bought sweet chilli sauces.  I wanted to make a fish cake that matched the sweet, salty, tangy and spicy flavours of the sweet chilli sauce but also brought some new textures and flavours to the overall meal.  Therefore I decided to use sweet potato (as I think they have a more interesting flavour than normal potatoes), crab (for its delicate salty taste and smooth texture) and to add in leek and onion as I think that their light, fresh flavours are a great complement to seafood. I was also excited when I found purple sweet potatoes at our local market as they have a wonderful colour, but feel free to use any kind of sweet potato.

Sweet potato crab cakes

Cooking time: 20 minutes preparation,

Dietary info: pescatarian, gluten-free, dairy free (see the twists for vegan versions)

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 medium sweet potato (I used purple sweet potato but feel free to use whatever kind you can find)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 can white crab meat (~120g drained weight) and 1 can dressed crab meat (~40-50g), or 1 prepared crab
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. Put the chopped onion and sliced leek in a saucepan with enough water to come about 1/3 the way up the vegetables.  Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes until they are starting to soften, then cook uncovered until they are soft and the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally to stop them sticking.
  2. Slice the sweet potato and steam until soft (about 10 minutes).
  3. Mash the sweet potato until smooth, then stir in the onion, leek, crab, salt, garlic, ginger, chilli and lemon.
  4. Spoon tablespoons of the crab and potato mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet on a baking tray and bake at 160C fan for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are crispy on the outside but the cakes are still soft.  Leave to cool and firm up for about 5 minutes before trying to take them off the tray to serve.
  5. Serve with the sweet chilli sauce (below) and steamed oriental vegetables or a crunchy salad.

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the crab cake mixture and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Make the chilli sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Then all you need to do on the night is spoon out the crab cake mixture onto a tray and bake, and to heat up the sauce (about 2 minutes in the microwave, or pour into a small saucepan and heat on the stove until it comes to the boil)

Some tasty little twists and extras

These crab cakes would also be nice rolled in a few tablespoons of panko bread crumbs before you bake them to give them an extra crispy finish.

If you are vegetarian or vegan then you could try replacing the crab with:

  • a  mixture of 100g pureed beans (with a pinch of salt) and 100g steamed and finely chopped samphire or sea vegetables.
  • 1 medium carrot, grated, and cook the onions and leek in dashi stock.  You could also add in a tablespoon of miso and some shredded nori.

As I’ve said before, I love this sweet chilli sauce – sweet, salty, tangy and spicy (and much healthier than shop bought varieties) and serve it with a lot of different dishes.  For example, it is a good glaze brushed over any kind of grilled meat, fish or vegetables, is nice drizzled over fried rice or noodles, is a tasty stir fry sauce, makes a lovely salad dressing or can be used as a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables, spring rolls or tempura.

Sweet chilli sauce

  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • A scant tsp sweetener such as stevia, or 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Water for consistency
  1. Put the cornflour, garlic, ginger, chilli and sweetener / sugar in a small saucepan and gradually add the rice vinegar, stirring thoroughly after each tablespoon to prevent lumps, until you have a smooth mixture.
  2. Add in the soy sauce and bring to the boil, stirring continuously, and bubble until the sauce is thick enough to coat the spoon.
  3. Stir in the lime and lemon juice, then add water to thin the sauce to the desired constancy (e.g. thicker for a glaze, thinner for a salad dressing or dipping sauce).
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