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Issue 46 - Fruits of the sea

Scotland Magazine Issue 46
August 2009


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Fruits of the sea

Sue Lawrence provides us with some more recipes, this time using Scotland's delicious deep sea scallops.

Rather like lobsters, scallops have become a luxury food in recent years. In decades gone by, they would have been caught and eaten simply by people who lived on the coast. Now they are served in all the best restaurants with a myriad sauces and accompaniments.

Hector Stewart at Kallin Shellfish on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides says that when he was growing up, they would sometimes be able to ‘fish out’ scallops with a scoop at low tide on a fine, clear day; since they are usually in deep water it was difficult to see them otherwise.

His mother would pour a kettle of boiling water over them to open the shells then she would fry them in butter and serve with a fried egg, the yolk from which acted as the sauce. Nowadays, with the help of boats, his company lands tonnes of scallops – and crab and lobster – locally. They are caught all around the Western Isles and the shores of Skye.

And although the words ‘hand-dived scallops’ is popular menu jargon these days, the scallops at Kallin are dredged from the deep waters. And though his scallops are not hand dived, Hector maintains that because scallop beds are small, there is little environmental impact in the places where his boats remove the shellfish; his scallops are wild, not farmed.

They can be aged by looking at the growth rings on the shells, the more they have, the older they are. The best scallops will have five or six rings – which makes them five or six years old.

Before you buy your wonderful fresh scallops, ensure they have not, as many are, soaked and plumped up with water to increase weight therefore price; these are pure white which is not necessarily a good sign. They ought to be off-white and with a firm never flabby flesh.

Once out of its shell and trimmed, a scallop can be cooked in many ways but, given their sublime taste and texture, it’s best to always keep it simple.

Heat some butter or oil in a pan then fry until just done: this only takes one minute or so either side. Always aim to undercook as overcooking will result in a rubbery scallop. And don’t forget even if you undercook it a little, it will still be more than acceptable: in Japan they serve scallops raw in sashimi. I have also had scallop ceviche (raw marinated scallop) in restaurants.

Never cook them in advance then reheat, as this makes them tough.

If you are making a fish pie, do not cook them for an hour with the other seafood unless you want chewy scallops! Simply slip them into the fish pie towards the end of cooking, for perfect results.

Flavours that go well with these fine shellfish are parmesan cheese, black pudding, lemongrass and ginger, horseradish, asparagus, cream and lemon.

But experiment with this wonderful and most versatile of seafood.

One of the simplest ways is to serve a mound of light creamy mashed potatoes topped with two or three simply seared scallops with only a salad on the side. Oh, and a glass of chilled Chablis might help this dish become even more idyllic.

Kallin Shellfish Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)1870 603 258
Or, have them cooked for you at:
The Captains Galley Seafood Restaurant, The
Harbour, Scrabster KW14 7UJ
Tel: +44 (0)1847 894 999

This wonderful recipe is from The
Captain’s Galley, Scrabster. Chef Jim
Cowie’s fabulous restaurant won UK
Seafood Restaurant of the Year in 2009,
quite a feat for an establishment that is
five hours north of Edinburgh, in of the
most remote parts of mainland Scotland.
But it is worth the effort: using only the
best of Highland produce, the menu
offers around 20 different species of
seafood each week. The menu changes
every day after Jim’s routine visit to the
pier, where he picks the freshest and best
quality seafood from either the Scrabster
fish market, or directly from the fishing
boats. All produce is sourced within a 50
mile radius of the restaurant. All his
seafood must be in season, and he only
uses ‘non-pressure’ stock species,
caught in sea areas of Scotland where the
stocks are sustainable. As well as
scallops (one of his specialities) he also
cooks wonderful dishes with mackerel,
razor clams, saithe and sea bream.
Serves two
4 large scallops
Groundnut oil
2 portions leek mash (mashed potatoes
mixed with sautéed sliced leeks)
6 wedges good quality chorizo
2 portions socatash
(creamed sweetcorn)

1. Put a heavy bottom frying pan on high
heat. As the pan is heating up, place the
scallops in kitchen paper to make sure
their surface is completely dry.
2. Warm the mash and socatash in two
separate other pans.
3. When your pan is hot, add a little oil,
place the scallops in the hot pan for about
one minute then add the chorizo and turn
the scallops for another minute or so. Turn
the chorizo and take the pan off the heat.
3. Sprinkle the scallops with sea salt and
freshly ground black pepper to taste.
4. To serve, divide the leek mash neatly
between two serving plates, in little
mounds in the middle of the plates.
5. Spread the socatash around. Add the
two scallops and spread the chorizo
nicely. You can also top with crispy
pancetta or parma ham.


Serves four
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
3-4 tbsp sunflower oil
12 plump scallops
1 large bag of lamb’s lettuce
or rocket, washed

1. Make the vinaigrette by shaking together
the vinegar, soy, lemon juice, sesame oil
and two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a
screw-top jar.
2. Pour one tablespoon of sunflower oil into
a heavy frying pan and heat until very hot.
Once it is searing hot add half the scallops
(they will spit) and cook for two-three
minutes altogether, turning after one
minute, then remove and keep warm.
Cook the remaining scallops (in more
oil if necessary.)
3. Meanwhile, toss the lamb’s lettuce
in the soy vinaigrette, then top with the
seared scallops. Serve at once with
crusty bread.