Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cooking scallops

"Assuming your scallops are sparklingly fresh (and if they're not, you shouldn't buy them in the first place) they don't actually need cooking at all - they can be eaten raw as sashimi. Now you may not want to do this, but the point is, short cooking time is fine and in fact better.

Of course it depends on the size of the scallop as to how long it needs to cook - and whether you are cooking just the meat or the meat plus the orange-pink coral - the coral takes less time to cook. This is why many top chefs remove the coral before cooking. The coral doesn't have to be wasted - it can be pounded with butter to make scallop butter - very nice on grilled fish - or left to dry overnight in a very slow oven and crumbled over finely sliced and stir-fried cabbage or seaweed.

However, my advice on cooking the scallop meat is to get a heavy based pan very very hot - leave it on the heat with no oil or butter for several minutes. Rub the base of the hot pan with a block of butter and add your dried scallops (dry them beforehand on kitchen paper).

Take a look at the pan-side after 30 seconds - is it crusting nicely? If so, turn it over and give it another 30 seconds. If not, give it another 10 secs then turn it.

The key to this is really to get that pan hot hot hot before you cook - otherwise the scallops will stew rather than fry and caremelise nicely.

(SS’s notes – if you want you can add lemon juice to the frying pan and many people will halve the scallops).

And another thing - please please please use hand-dived scallops. They're much more expensive but the alternative involves dredging the bottom of the sea bed and removing everything from it - meaning there's no breeding ground for scallops or fish for years to come."

Richard Leader

(The above scallops were cooked with samphire, cabbage and salmon.)

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