Taste of the sea

Taste of the sea

Anna Hedworth, aka The Grazer, has been on her travels. Her reward? Shetland scallops smoked over seaweed right there on the beach

The little grey fish van pulled up just as we were about to give up. We had seen a few up in Scrabster; little vans that drive around, you can flag them down and buy fish anywhere you see them. We hadn’t found any fish shops and had left a message with a man about some lobster but that was yet to come to fruition.

We’d been up in the very North of Scotland for a week-long holiday, just a cottage on a beach surrounded by sea, big skies, hills and nature.

There were no lobsters and langoustines aboard unfortunately, but we did score some massive Shetland scallops, a couple of kippers and some cod roe.

I’d read something in Niklas Ekstedt’s book about scallops and cucumber steamed over seaweed, so set about making a plan, as one does when you’re staying in a cottage on your own beach.

I wandered down and cut some fresh live seaweed from the rocks. I’ve been reading a bit about seaweeds lately, and it turns out you can eat all of them in Britain, though some are disgusting and you shouldn’t use stuff lying on the beach. There were a couple of types on the rocks – one you make nori from and another with bits you can pop (I’m not down with the names yet) so I picked a big serving bowlful.

We built a small fire among some rocks with plenty of air flow from below and sheltered from the winds, and got it going using driftwood twigs and dried out seaweed topped with birch logs. That’s another Niklas thing – he always uses birch wood and he knows what he’s doing with fire, and scallops for that matter…

Once the fire was pretty strong I put a bit of butter into the pan and when it sizzled in went the scallops for roughly 2 mins each side. I then set them aside on a warm plate and popped a little more butter in the pan to melt, stirring up all the scraps of flavour from the bottom.

I took the pan off the fire and quickly covered the fire with seaweed. You don’t want it to go out, but you also don’t want the flames coming through and burning the scallops – so you’re aiming for a nice thick seaweed bed which you can sit the scallops on.

I’m not sure whether Niklas’ version is to steam or smoke these scallops, but ours were definitely smoked. I left them on for about 2 mins on each side. The seaweed began to change colour to a deep green and just as flames began to lick through it we took the scallops off, seasoned them with salt and drizzled them with hot butter from the pan.

They were wonderful – rich and smoky but more mellow than a wood smoke flavour and with all the taste of the sea intact. There’s something truly magical about cooking outside on a fire – and it makes everything taste better!

More from The Grazer at the-grazerblogspot.com and eat her food at The Cookhouse, Ouse Street, Newcastle, NE1 2PF
www.cookhouse.org

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