As much as I'd love to offer my dinner guests beluga, oscietra or sevruga caviar as a starter, I can't afford to serve it the way it should be served (in lavish amounts). These starters aren't exactly cheap but they won't break the bank.

Uni and karasumi carbonara (pictured)

Whenever I see uni (sea urchin) pasta on a menu, that's the dish I'm sure to order. Too often, though, the sea urchin flavour is weak. I wanted to make a dish that was pure and intense.

In a classic spaghetti carbonara, eggs are whisked with a small amount of the water used to boil the pasta, which contains some residual starch and therefore has a slight thickening effect. The egg/water is stirred into the just-drained (but not rinsed) pasta that has been placed in the still-hot pan used to cook the guanciale (cured pork jowl), then the flame is turned off. The heat of the spaghetti and the pan gently cook the egg mixture, turning it into a creamy sauce. Grated parmesan is mixed in, making the dish even creamier while also adding umami. For this dish, I substituted sea urchin "tongues" for the eggs, and it worked very well. I used karasumi (salted and cured mullet roe; you can substitute bottarga) in place of the cheese, but the technique is almost the same as that for carbonara.

100 grams uni, plus extra for garnishing

300 grams dried inaniwa udon or somen

50 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Karasumi, for grating

Shiso sprouts and shredded nori, for garnishing

Put the uni tongues into a bowl and whisk to break up the pieces. Continue to whisk until the uni is liquified (there will be a few tiny pieces). Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the noodles and cook until just tender (this takes only a few minutes). Ladle off about 100ml of the cooking liquid then pour 60ml of it into the bowl with the uni and whisk immediately. Drain the noodles then, without rinsing them, put them immediately into the bowl containing the uni. Add the butter then use tongs to mix the ingredients until the sauce very lightly coats the noodles. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more of the cooking liquid. Divide the noodles between six plates and top each portion with some of the reserved uni. Grate some of the karasumi on top, garnish with shiso sprouts and shredded nori, then serve immediately.

Crab cakes

It should go without saying that crab cakes should be very crab-y, but too often, people make them with a lot of filler. These have just enough additional ingredients to bind the crab meat together, and just a little seasoning to enhance the flavour.

I use canned crab meat - the kind that comes in the refrigerated seafood section of the supermarket, which has a fresher flavour than the shelf-stable stuff. It's even better if you start with fresh crab meat, but that's a lot of work.

Make the mixture in advance then chill it, so it has time to firm up; that way, the crab cakes won't fall apart when you pan-fry them.

500 grams cooked crab meat

2 large eggs

30 grams Hellmann's mayonnaise

20 grams grainy Dijon mustard

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp paprika

A few drops of Tabasco

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

30 grams unsalted butter, melted then cooled to tepid

30ml fresh lemon juice

Finely grated zest of half a lemon

2 spring onions, finely minced

About 10 grams fresh parsley, finely chopped

20 grams panko, plus extra for coating the crab cakes

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil, for pan-frying

To serve:

Mixed salad greens, enough to serve six

30ml fresh lime juice

90ml extra-virgin olive oil

Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk them with the mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Add the butter and lemon juice and zest. Put the crab meat in the bowl and mix gently to combine, then add the spring onion, parsley and 20 grams of panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Line a tray with cling-film. Shape the mixture into six patties that are about 1.5cm thick, place them on the tray and refrigerate for several hours.

Coat a skillet with oil and place it over a medium-low flame. Dredge the crab cakes in panko and pan-fry them, turning them over as needed, for about eight minutes in total, or until they're medium golden and heated through. Adjust the heat as needed if they brown too quickly. Blot on paper towels while preparing the salad.

Whisk the lime juice with the olive oil and drizzle over the salad greens. Divide the greens between six plates and top with a crab cake. Serve immediately.

Stylist: Nellie Ming Lee

For more recipes, go to