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Scallops before Spring

Pan fried scallops with a walnut-oil and lemon dressing

st jacquesThis is one of the simplest starters to impress your guests, or even yourself with! It makes the most of scallops before they go out of season. I enjoyed some freshly caught scallops in Brittany in December, in a beachfront bistrot, during some unusually mild weather. This was a particularly precious moment, as we live in continental, Eastern France, we couldn’t be farther from the sea. The nearest fishmonger to us is about an hour away, so a holiday on the coast was perfect for enjoying an inexpensive feast of fish for a week. Scallops are in season from October to May, yet sustainable fishing advice recommends not consuming them from April till September, during breeding time.March is time to savour the last of the scallops and a sign that Winter will soon be behind us.

st jacques - Copie

I am always surprised, as with most seafood, that we don’t enjoy more of it in the UK, being an island. Most of our shellfish is exported, bizarrely. and local fishmongers seem to be a rarety. I feel strongly that we should support fishmongers who are always keen to advise on how to prepare and choose your seafood. Such information has not always been passed on from generation to generation as it has in French coastal regions.Fish and chips are great but there is so much more to seafood! Sustainability is obviously much discussed nowadays and for scallops there is a “good practice guide” to help consumers make an informed decision, when buying.There is also an online guide to fish labelling which makes for an interesting read.

Simply pan fry 2 scallops per person(ready-shelled), in a knob of butter for 2 minutes on each side. When serving generously drizzle with walnut oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Add a touch of black pepper. A pinch of salt may be necessary but unlikely as you will have an obvious taste of the sea.

You will be surpised by the subtleties hidden in these little blobs of white flesh! The tougher, more bitter, orange part of the scallop( the “coral” or “roe”),  can be an acquired taste. Some people also believe it can contain harmful toxins, although all parts of the scallop flesh are classed as “edible”. I feel the coral cuts through the richness of the white flesh, so adds a positive element to the recipe.

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