Growing up in Durban, South Africa we were so lucky to have access to quality seafood. Seafood restaurants are the order of the day. A perfect example is a venue called "The Prawn Shack" which is about an hour and a half up the north coast from Durban. It's name speaks volumes. The Prawn Shack - it is just that. A large shack that serves copious amounts of prawns. The majority of the food is prepared outdoors (no such thing as an EHO or HSE) on large open fire pits. The fish is fresh, the prawns plump and lush and the "Zulu Sushi" otherwise known as seared beef carpaccio with wasabi, delicious. It is a great place to have a party, you can stay on site and the beach is just 150 meters away. Paradise found. I digress, with all this abundant seafood we often would have a fish BBQ at home. Kyle and I would drive to the local fish monger and buy prawns, mussels, crayfish, whole fresh fish of many descriptions and take them home to cook simply on the fire.
This last weekend we had family round for lunch and felt the need to recreate a bit of Durban in London. So off to the Barnes Fish Shop we went on Saturday morning. The selection was perfect. Nice big prawns, some of the best we have had in the UK, queen scallops; hand dived, mussels and clams. The mussels and clams were alive, so a whole new experience for me. A clam licked me the next day when I was prepping the fish for lunch. I shrieked quite loudly, silly really but the sensation was bizarre.
A tip: If you have live molluscs put them in a dry plastic container with a damp cloth over and store in the fridge over night if you are not using immediately. Do not keep them in water as this will kill them. When ready to use, brush the shells under a trickle of water to clean, any that do not close immediately at the touch or when run under the water, discard. Similarly any that do not open when cooked, discard.
I wanted to show the shellfish off at their best and knew that the only way to do this was keep it simple. My recipe below is not 100% original. The most common companions for fish are the best and I believe that you don't mess with perfection.
To make enough for four people to enjoy:
2 kg Assorted fish and shellfish, I used prawns, scallops, clams and mussels. You can also use razor clams, oysters, langoustines and crayfish
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 large bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
2 Red chillis, de-seeded and finely diced
Juice of 3 limes or lemons depending on your preference
Zest of 1 lime or lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Get your BBQ started, making sure the coals burn down but are still a deep glowing red and white hot. Or put your oven onto 220 degrees, 200 fan, gas mark 7, 428 Fahrenheit.
Mix the herbs, lime or lemon juice, zest and a good few glugs of olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste and set aside. Prep the mussels and clams as in the tip above. Leave the prawns whole and keep the scallops on the shell. This way you retain the moisture and the flavour of both. Toss all the seafood in three quarters of the marinade and take out to the BBQ.
If using an oven place the prawns, mussels and clams in an oven proof dish with the marinade and bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Add the scallops with 4 minutes cooking time to go as they are very delicate and do not need more cooking than this. If using the BBQ place the large items such as the prawn on first, then the mussels and clams. Cover with a large baking tray to keep the heat in and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add the scallops at the end and cook for a further 2 minutes. Take them off the BBQ and toss in the remaining marinade and take straight to the table. You will know the prawns are cooked as they turn a brilliant pink or orange colour and are nice and firm. The shellfish, as mentioned before are ready to eat when they are open. If a few remain closed after the cooking time, rather be safe and throw them away.
I would recommend serving with a fresh mixed garden salad and garlic bread.
I would love to see pictures of your efforts or find out how you love to prepare quality seafood meals. Enjoy and as always eat well.
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain