Put something with scallops on the menu and they always seem to sell. According to gastronomic critics, this deliciously meaty mollusc is the queen of the deep seas and from a cook’s point of view; these perfect little rounds of pure muscle could have been created just for the table. They are ever so versatile and can be cooked in so many different ways. They marry well with so many other flavours and they are also a portion control officers dream.
An expensive but delicious shellfish with a delicate taste, scallops have two fan-shaped shells which contain rounds of firm white flesh, sometimes with the edible cream and orange coral (or roe) attached.
They can be steamed, fried or grilled but should be cooked gently and only for a very short time or their delicate flavour and texture will be spoiled. The trick to perfectly tender and juicy scallops is not to overcook them, which can make them dry and tough. Scallops really come into their own when they are shown the heat of a hot frying pan. The oil or butter must be hot enough to create a crust, otherwise the scallops start to release their juices and start to boil. If you heat 1 teaspoon of butter and 3 teaspoons of olive oil (to prevent burning) in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add the scallops and, depending on their size, cook for 1-2 minutes each side or until light golden and just cooked through. Transfer to a plate. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t add salt before cooking as it draws out moisture and toughens the scallops.
Scallops can also be steamed with white wine, garlic and parsley as you would mussels, serve them with asparagus or wrap them in prosciutto and grill or fry for a few minutes. Scallops are also perfect when marinated in ceviche style dishes and for go well with Asian ingredients: try pan-frying them in oil with ginger and fresh coriander. They’re also a good complement to hearty flavours such as bacon, chorizo, morcilla or watercress. In northern Spain tiny queen scallops called “Zamburiñas” are very popular. These are tender, buttery scallops native to the cold Atlantic around Galicia. They are most often served steamed, but are also widely available baked in the shell.
PAN-FRIED SCALLOPS WITH FRESH PEA, LIME & MINT SOUP
I love scallops with peas and they all combine beautifully with lime & fresh mint. You could use frozen peas for this recipe
Ingredients: serves 4
12 large scallops
1 bunch of spring onions (finely chopped)
2 small potatoes (peeled and diced)
1litre vegetable stock
2 lemongrass sticks (finely chopped)
900g fresh peas, shelled
150ml crème fraiche
Juice of 2 limes
4 tbsp chopped mint
Cook the spring onions in the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat until tender. Do not allow to colour. Add the diced potatoes and stir to mix. Pour in the stock; bring to the boil and cook, covered, for about 8 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the crème fraiche, lime juice and mint leaves. Season to taste and liquidise the soup in a food processor until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve.
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and fry the scallops until golden brown. Turn over and finish cooking on the other side. Season the scallops and divide them between four warm soup bowls. Garnish with some fresh pea shoots and serve with the fresh pea, lime & mint soup.
Marc Fosh – Michelin Star Chef