Follow our 10 simple rules when buying shellfish and make the most of your seafood!
1. Buy Fresh And Know How To Store Them
A first word on buying and storing shellfish… Buy from a reputable supplier – shellfish should smell of the sea and not of fish. Oysters, mussels and clams should be unbroken and closed. Store them in the fridge covered by a damp cloth – never in water, which will kill them. The same goes for lobster. Oysters should be stored with their flat side of the shell upwards.
2. You Can’t Go Wrong With Prawns
It’s always handy to have a bag of prawns in the freezer, but we often neglect North Atlantic prawns, the little pink ones. All prawns are great in Asian dishes – noodle soups and stir-fries – and blend well with coriander, fish sauce, basil, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, ginger, lime and lemon. As with all shellfish, cook them quickly over a high heat so they don’t become rubbery.
Try and make our miso soup with prawns recipe for a simple Asian-style soup.
3. Keep Things Simple
Mussels contain essential omega-3 fatty acids. The easiest way to cook them is à la marinière, simply steamed open for five minutes in white wine, garlic and parsley. Use coriander and lemongrass for a zest of Thai flavours, or add some coconut milk to make a delicious broth.
This moules marinières recipe is a classic Belgian dish that’s wonderful served with chunks of crusty bread.
4. Make Your Own Spiced Salts
If you’re fond of a barbecue then making a spiced salt to go with prawns or other shellfish is a great way to inject flavour at the last minute. It’ll keep for two weeks in a sealed container. Take 4tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, 2tbsp five-spice powder and 2tbsp sea salt. Throw into a hot, dry pan and shake until the salt is pale brown and you can scent the pepper. Grind in a mortar and pestle, and sprinkle over cooked prawns.
5. Try Adding Heat
Shellfish love chilli! Just a small pinch brings out the flavour, especially with crab, oysters and prawns. Oysters, of course, love Tobasco too. A pinch of chilli in a crab salad with spring onions, crunchy lettuce and tomatoes is delicious and so good for you!
6. Give Clams A Go
We eat clams in restaurants but rarely at home. Steam open in dry sherry for a Spanish twist on moules marinière. Or add to linguine with white wine, butter, parsley and chilli for an Italian vongole. Delicious, too, in clam chowder for a creamy treat.
Try these Spanish-inspired clams with sherry and Serrano ham for a taste explosion.
7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Oysters
Oysters are a real love/hate food. But if you love oysters, they’re one of nature’s delicious products. A proper oyster knife makes opening easy (there are plenty of videos online to show you how). In France they are served with finely chopped shallots and red wine vinegar; in the UK we often add just a squeeze of lemon. And they are very high in omega-3s.
8. Make Your Own Garlic Butter
All shellfish goes with garlic butter. Make a big batch and freeze in portions. For 250g softened butter, add 15 cloves of peeled, chopped garlic and whizz in a food processor. Add finely chopped parsley and a splash of white wine. If you don’t have the time, we like Lurpak Garlic Butter – all ready to go!
These pil pil prawns are so simple and are perfect with crusty bread for dipping.
9. Cook Scallops Like A Pro
With scallops it is key to cook them quickly over a high heat, or they become rubbery. As long as they are super fresh, you can serve them ‘raw’ in a Peruvian-style ceviche, where the sliced scallops are ‘cooked’ with fresh lime juice and served with a sprinkling of chilli. Try with some sliced palm hearts, too.
Try these seared scallops with chorizo for a really effortless dish that’s perfect for a dinner party starter.
10. Lobster Doesn’t Have To Be A Luxury
Lobster from British waters is the very best of all – it is far sweeter than its Canadian cousins. Serve it simply in a salad with lemon mayonnaise. Cheaper imported lobsters are better for risotto, pasta and macaroni cheese.