Friday 20 April 2018

From sea to plate - tackling shellfish at home


Seared scallops with crushed potatoes
Seared scallops with crushed potatoes
Drunken Clams
Prawns with chilli oil
Lobster & Fennel Salad
Fast and Fresh by Louise Pickford

Louise Pickford takes the fear factor out of tackling shellfish in your own kitchen, and suggests some tasty recipes for luxury dishes you might normally only order in restaurants.

Seared Scallops with Crushed Potatoes

Scallops, with their sweet flesh and subtle hint of the sea, are a real treat. Truffle oil, though expensive, is used sparingly and transforms this dish into something special. If you don't have truffle oil, you can use thyme or garlic oil.

Serves 4


12 large sea scallops

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crushed potatoes:

1lb new potatoes, peeled

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Qtr cup pitted black olives, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

A few drops of truffle oil (optional)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly-salted, boiling water until just tender. Drain well and return to the pan. Lightly crush them with a fork leaving them still a little chunky. Add the olive oil, olives, parsley, and a few drops of truffle oil, if using. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Put the scallops in a bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Sear the scallops on a preheated stove-top grill pan for 1 minute on each side (don't overcook or they will be tough). Remove to a plate and let them rest briefly. Put a pile of crushed potatoes on to each plate, put the scallops on top, and sprinkle with a few extra drops of truffle oil, if using.

Drunken clams

Try to find small vongole clams - I think they are sweeter and more tender than the larger varieties. This recipe will serve four as an appetizer, but you can serve it with other Asian dishes plus rice and noodles for an impressive banquet. Serves 4


2kg fresh clams, well scrubbed

150g fish or vegetable stock

100ml Shaohsing (sweetened Chinese rice wine) or sweet sherry

4 garlic cloves, sliced

3cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

6 spring onions, sliced

1 red chilli, seeded and sliced

Szechuan pepper or black pepper


Tap each clam lightly on the work surface and discard any that won't close. Put the clams in a saucepan, add the stock, rice wine, garlic, ginger, spring onions and chilli. Grind Szechuan pepper over the top and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and let steam for 3-4 minutes until all the shells have opened.

Discard any unopened clams and transfer the rest to warmed bowls. Pour the stock through a fine sieve, pour over the clams, then serve.

Prawns with Chilli Oil and Pistachio and Mint Pesto

Prawns make the fastest, freshest, most impressive dish you can imagine. If you can't find uncooked prawns, use precooked ones - just sprinkle them with the chilli oil and lemon juice and serve with the cool and refreshing pesto. Now, how complicated can that be?

Serves 4


24 large uncooked prawns, shelled and deveined

4 tbsp chilli oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

For the pistachio and mint pesto:

50g (about one third cup) shelled pistachios

A bunch of mint

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 spring onions, chopped

125g extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Crusty bread


To make the pesto, put the pistachios, mint, garlic and spring onions in a food processor and grind coarsely. Add the oil and purée until fairly smooth and green. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste. Set aside while you prepare the prawns, or store in the refrigerator for up to five days. Put the prawns in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the chilli oil, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate for at least 30 minutes or longer, if possible.

When ready to serve, thread the prawns on to skewers and cook on a preheated barbecue or stove-top grill pan, or under a hot grill, for about 2 minutes on each side until charred and tender - the flesh should be just opaque. Do not overcook or the prawns will be tough.

Put on separate plates or a large platter, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and serve with the pesto and crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Lobster & Fennel Salad

A simple dish with lovely flavours - when you serve lobster, the effect is instantly luxurious and 'special occasion'. Who would ever know this dish was so simple to prepare? Slice the fennel as finely as possible, using a mandoline if you have one. If not, it's worthwhile investing in one so you can cut vegetables very thinly into slices or matchsticks. Inexpensive, but effective, plastic Japanese mandolines are available from kitchen stores.

Serves 4


1 large bulb of fennel

Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 small cooked lobsters, about 500g each, or 2 large ones

1 tbsp mayonnaise

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Trim off and discard the tough outer layer of fennel, then chop and reserve the fronds. Cut the bulb in half, then cut crossways into very thin slices. Put in a bowl, add the lemon juice, oil, fennel fronds, salt and pepper, toss well, then marinate for 15 minutes.

Cut the lobsters in half and lift the tail flesh out of the shell. Crack the claws with a small hammer or crab crackers and carefully remove all the meat.

Put a layer of shaved fennel salad on each plate, top with the lobster, and serve with a spoonful of mayonnaise.


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