Seafood: Simple Ways to Cook
To open scallops, place them with the rounded side down in an oven at about 150°C (300°F/ Gas Mark 2). After a few moments they should open up enough to allow you to insert a sharp knife and run it along to cut free the flat shell.
Hold the scallop under running water and slide the knife under the membrane that attaches the scallop to the shell. Cut the scallop free, and discard the brownish, frilled membranes and black intestinal thread, leaving only the white flesh and the orange ‘coral’.
Scallops should always be cooked very gently to prevent them becoming tough.
Discard any open oysters that don’t close up when tapped. Hold each closed oyster firmly with a cloth, flat side up, and with the hinged end towards you. Insert the tip of an oyster knife, or any short, strong knife, into the small gap in the hinge and twist the blade to separate the two halves of the shell. Slide the knife along to sever the muscle holding the shell together. Discard the upper shell and loosen the oyster.
If oysters are hard to open, soak them in soda water for five minutes -it seems to relax the muscle that holds them closed.
Before cooking pull away the wiry ‘beard’ which sprouts from the shell of the mussel. Discard any mussels which are already open, or are floating on the top of the water, or which do not close up when tapped. They are probably dead and unsuitable for eating. Scrub the shells of the live, closed mussels with a stiff brush under cold running water, and scrape off any barnacles.
Wherever you buy your fish, cleaning, gutting and filleting are almost always best left to the experts. Most fish in supermarkets are sold as ready-to-cook fillets, and if you buy a whole fish, staff at the fish counter should offer to clean it for you. The same applies to any good fishmonger. Tell them if you want the fish’s head left on or taken off.
Serving a cooked lobster
1. Lay the lobster on a board and twist off the large claws and all the legs. Hold it the right way up, with the tail extended.
With a large, heavy, sharp knife pierce the shell where the head meets the body and cut the lobster completely in half down its entire length. If necessary, hit the back of the knife with a heavyweight, such as a wooden rolling pin, to help crack the shell. Split the head in two in the same way.
2. Pull the two halves of the lobster apart. Remove the transparent stomach sac and gills from the head sections, and the grey-black intestine which runs down the body.
3. Crack the claws carefully with a hammer, a heavy scale weight, a rolling pin or a nutcracker, and extract the meat with a thin-bladed knife or skewer. Remove the firm, white tail meat and scoop out the remaining soft, creamy meat from the body. Season to taste and arrange all the meat back in the shell for serving.