Cooking show host Jack Stein, son of Rick Stein, shares a recipe for swimmer crab with Vegemite

Jack Stein is the host of a new show, Jack Stein: Born To Cook Down Under, which airs on SBS Food Channel. PHOTO: SBS.COM.AU
Jack Stein is the host of a new show, Jack Stein: Born To Cook Down Under, which airs on SBS Food Channel. PHOTO: SBS.COM.AU

(GUARDIAN) - Which is better: Vegemite or Marmite?

If you ask Jack Stein, young British chef and son of Rick, he will say Vegemite.

So much so that the Brit uses it in one of the key dishes - Singapore blue swimmer crab, with Vegemite - that he cooks up in his new show Born To Cook: Jack Stein Down Under, which showcases the thriving food scene in Western Australia and premieres on SBS Food Network on June 28.

In truth, it is something of a signature ingredient for the rising star, who uses Vegemite or Marmite in many of his dishes.

"I add it to everything, gravy, I make Marmite butters which I throw into sauces at the last minute," he says. "I'm a bit of a one-trick pony with it."

Pairing it with swimmer crab "can be a bit of a love/hate thing," he says, "but it's only a tiny amount: you wouldn't know it was in there - it gives it a real depth of flavour".

Stein's affection for Vegemite began when he visited Australia as a child with his chef father and family. He and his brothers soon became obsessed with Australian treats: "We were constantly trying to smuggle Cherry Ripes and Vegemite from Australia, back in the day."

On numerous subsequent trips, the Steins often heard about the emerging food scene in WA. Jack first visited in 2000 after a surfing trip to Indonesia, and fell in love with the region's food and wine. And he was struck by how friendly those working the cellar doors were - particularly compared with European wineries.

"Especially in France and Italy and to some extent Spain, you can sometimes feel a bit like you are trespassing, whereas in Margaret River you feel very welcome."

These days Stein heads up his father's restaurant empire, overseeing nine restaurants, a pub and a cookery school. "The old man" is renowned for his seafood cooking and Jack's style is very similar. "Probably half (my) recipes are mostly Rick's with a couple of tweaks," he jokes.

And so, while there are pork and lamb dishes on Born To Cook, the emphasis is on the local seafood. One of the segments is focused on marron, the freshwater crustacean unique to the region. Stein and the crew went out with a local marron farmer, Jim, to catch the lobster - but Stein struggled.

"You think in most food shows they would probably pretend you caught one - but they were like, 'Nah, if you can't catch one, you can't catch one.'"

He had to leave the fishing to Jim and instead focused on cooking the catch. "I always think lobster goes really well with aniseed flavours and fennel, so (this recipe was) Pernod, some mustard and soy sauce."

Stein grew up in Cornwall and has long been a keen surfer. One of his personal filming highlights was surfing in Yallingup with the retired champion and local legend Taj Burrows. "When you paddle out with him and you've got a drone above you, everyone just gets out the way, so I had loads of waves, it was brilliant."

So what is his favourite post-surf snack? "I really like raw fish, like ceviche or a poke or something that's high in protein and not cooked too much. You come out of the sea and suddenly you turn into a health freak."

Some of the show's recipes have made it on to the menu back in Stein's Cornwall restaurants. Although they've been adapted to local ingredients, diners get to enjoy the ceviche of dhufish and finger limes, a version of the marron dish with langoustines, and the Singapore blue swimmer crab - with Marmite.

Stein has a number of other projects in the pipeline, including a new cookbook. And there's always talk, he says, of opening another Rick Stein restaurant - particularly since Bannisters in Mollymook, New South Wales, was awarded a hat by the Good Food Guide. Stein would love to open one in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth, with so much happening in the food scene in those cities. "It's just the right site in the right place," he says.

SINGAPORE BLUE SWIMMER CRAB WITH VEGEMITE

INGREDIENTS

2kg blue swimmer crab, cooked

4 Tbsp sunflower oil

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 2.5cm fresh root ginger, finely chopped

3 medium-hot red Dutch chillies, finely chopped

4 Tbsp tomato ketchup

2 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp Vegemite1

50 ml water

2 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces and finely shredded, lengthways

Handful of chopped fresh coriander

METHOD

1. Prep the crabs by removing the heads and hard mouth parts from the internal structure, and quartering the bodies. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and submerge the crabs for five minutes. Drain and dry off the crabs.

2. Finely chop ginger, garlic and the chillis. Set aside.

3. In a deep pan set to medium high, heat the sunflower oil and place the sectioned crab into the pan. Roast the shells off for three to four minutes to intensify the flavours before adding the rest of the ingredients. Pass the shells off into another bowl and leave the remainder of the oil in the pan.

4. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan with the old oil, then add the ketchup, dark soy, a dash of water and a teaspoon of Vegemite. Let that simmer together for 30 seconds and then add the crabs back in, including the runoff juices. Cover the pot and let it steam for five minutes. The sauce should reduce to a single-cream consistency.

5. Chop the spring onion and fresh coriander roughly. Spoon the crab out into a bowl, sprinkle over with garnish and serve.