This group of shellfish has shells and legs. It ranges from expensive lobsters for special occasions to value for money prawns that are good for everyday meals.
Crustaceans are good for you. Nutritionists recommend we eat fish, including shellfish two or three times a week. Low in fat, shellfish provides protein and valuable vitamins and minerals especially potassium, iodine, iron and zinc.
Choose whole live crab, this is the freshest option but it is time consuming and fiddly to boil a crab and remove the edible meat from the shell and claws so you may prefer to buy a whole cooked crab, the next best thing and ask the fishmonger to do the job for you. Whole crabs should feel heavy for their size, weight indicates there is plenty of meat. A crab that weighs 1kg (2lb0 will feed 2-3 people.
To tell whether a crab is male or female look at the small flap on the underside of the crab (known as the apron) it its thin and pointy the crab is male. A female crab has a rounded larger apron. Some crab lovers prefer males which tend to have more meat, while others favour females for their sweet meat and roe.
There is a huge variety of prawns on offer, both raw and cooked, cheap and expensive. All are quick and easy to prepare and cook and you can use them in many ways.
- Asian ingredients like fresh ginger, coriander, chilli, garlic, spring onions, lime and basil all work with crustaceans.
- Rich flavours like cram, cheese, wine and brandy go well with lobsters and prawns.
- Pasta also goes well with any crustaceans.
- Panko breadcrumbs are great for king prawns
This group of shellfish has shells but no legs. Mussels are the best known and most often eaten, clams, scallops and oysters are more expensive.
When buying live mussels tap the shells, they should snap shut, indicating that the mussel is alive (avoid mussels with broken shells).
To prepare – scrape any barnacles off the shells with a small sharp knife. Scrub the shells clean with a stiff brush under cold water tap and take off the hairy beards from between the shell hinges.
Cooking – Steam mussels in a covered pan with just enough liquid to cover the bottom. They should take 5 minutes. Drain and discard any that are still closed.
Always keep the juice from clams and mussels, tipping it into soup and stews for extra flavour and add cream, lemon juice, ginger and chilli for a lovely sauce.
Whether enjoyed raw on the half-shell or in a creamy bowl of stew, no food so perfectly captures the sweet softly taste of the sea as an oyster. In spite of the long list of names you may be presented with at an oyster bar, there are just four species of oyster. Atlantic or Eastern oysters, European flat oyster, Pacific or Japanese oyster and tiny Olympias. What makes one oyster different from the other depends on where it is grown. Oyster are safe to eat all year round, they just aren’t as good in the summer months when the water warms up. This is when the oyster’s spawn and their normally firm flesh turns milky.
These are my favourite also known by their French name of Coquilles St Jacques. Scallops are quick and easy to prepare, cook at lightning speed and taste exquisitely sweet and tender.
I hope you enjoy your sea food as much as I do.