I know it seems odd describing shellfish as being seasonal. But in New Zealand, scallops are very much so. The recreational season runs from 1st September to 31st March in the North Island, and from 15th July to 14th February in the South. The commercial season in the North is slightly longer, but either way, fresh locally harvested scallops are not available all year around.
In our household, the scallop season is cause for great excitement. It means summer’s on the way, it means we get to go out on the boat, and it means access to beautiful, fresh, plump scallops. I am fortunate enough to be married to a keen diver, have access to a boat, and live in a city where the ocean’s bounty is in relatively easy reach. I say “relatively” because being able to dive for scallops doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find them. Close proximity to New Zealand’s major city is a double edged sword – there are many popular scallop beds that are stripped by both commercial and recreational fishermen by the end of the season, hence the need for quotas and seasonality. Besides which, being at the bottom of the ocean means the most effective way to find them is to get down there. And the ocean is a pretty big place.
Anyway, I digress. Needless to say, I count myself very lucky. Trust me when I say, a scallop fresh out of the ocean tastes entirely different to those three days old (more when frozen). Once you’ve eaten them fresh, you’ll never order scallops in a restaurant again.
So how good are scallops for you?
- Scallops are a great source of lean protein, containing 18 grams of protein per 85g, or 30% of the RDI protein for men and 38% for women.
- They’re a great source of magnesium (10% RDI per serving), which is responsible for hundreds of enzyme reactions, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood coagulation, energy production, nutrient metabolism and bone and cell formation. It also helps you sleep.
- They’re a great source of potassium (20% RDI per serving). Potassium reduces risk of stroke and lowers blood pressure. It also regulates fluid balance and counters the effect of sodium.
- They’re high in vitamin B12 (20% RDI per serving), which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
- They’re high in Omega-3 fats, which promotes cardiovascular health.
- They’re also incredibly low in calories, at only 80 calories per 85g serving. And low in cholesterol at only 10% RDI per serving.
How do I clean them?
There’s a few things that I’m particularly proud of (aside from my children, obvs). One of
which is being able to shuck (clean) scallops. The other is dismantling crayfish and cleaning fish, but that’s a story for another time (and I’m just showing off now…).
In New Zealand we generally eat both the white muscle and the roe. It seems a waste to throw the roe away, but I have noticed that it has become commonplace over the years for restaurants to serve the scallop muscle alone. I’m hoping that they use the roe for other purposes. I’m sure they do (they’re lovely smoked).
Sadly, the rest of the scallop is largely waste, which we use for burley to attract fish in the hope that we might catch them. The waste is NEVER dumped on the scallop beds!
The internet has a wonderful store of video showing how to shuck scallops. Generally we use the flat shell as a “plate” to clean the excess away, but this guy uses the rounded side:
Or you could just go see your local fishmonger, and buy them ready shucked from him.
Some ideas for cooking scallops
Probably the most important thing to impart about cooking scallops is to not overcook them. They are very delicate but become like rubber when left on the heat for too long. About 2 minutes each side should be enough.
- Season scallops with salt and pepper, heat a barbecue or griddle pan until very hot and sear scallops until cooked. Squeeze over some fresh lemon juice and serve.
- Melt a knob of butter over a medium heat. Add white wine, finely chopped garlic and sliced spring onions, simmer until alcohol has boiled off. Reduce heat, add scallops to the pan and poach until cooked. Serve with salad and crusty bread to mop un pan juices.
- Heat olive oil in a pan, and briefly fry finely chopped shallots, garlic and red chilli. Add white wine and simmer until alcohol has gone. Add scallops to the pan, poach until cooked. Season and stir through lemon zest and fresh chopped parsley. Toss through hot cooked pasta and serve.
- Using the white scallop muscle only, chop scallop into a 1cm dice. Mix with salt and lime juice. Stir through chopped coriander, chopped red chilli, finely chopped red onion, chopped cucumber, diced fresh tomatoes and avocado. Spoon into lettuce cups and serve.
- Wrap scallops with bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Grill until bacon is crisp and scallops are cooked throroughly.
- Make a salad with salad greens, sliced red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and coriander. Grill scallops until browned and cooked through. Toss scallops through the salad with a dressing made from mayonnaise and lemon juice.
- Make the same salad as above, but omit the avocado and add shredded carrot, mint and slice red capsicum. Marinate scallops in lime juice for 15 minutes, then sear in a hot pan until cooked. Toss with the salad with a dressing made from chopped chilli, and equal parts fish sauce, lime juice and water.
SCALLOPS WITH PETITE POIS A LA FRANCAISE
Fresh scallops (allow 5-6 per person)
1 Tbsp butter
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
500g frozen baby peas
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cos lettuce, finely shredded
150ml white wine
Handful parsley leaves, chopped
- Heat a frying pan to hot, sear scallops until cooked. Remove and set aside.
- Melt a knob of butter in the pan. Add chopped bacon and cook until bacon is crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.
- Reduce heat and add finely diced onion and chopped garlic. Cook until onion is soft.
- Pour over white wine. Bring to a simmer, stirring to lift the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add frozen peas and shredded iceberg lettuce and simmer until lettuce is wilted and peas are just cooked (this shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes)
- Stir through parsley leaves and season to taste.
- Onto deep plates, ladle the peas and juices. Top with scallops and sprinkle with a little extra parsley. Serve.