Scallops are arguably the finest edible creatures to grace our coastline. Found on the menus of the worlds top restaurants, often at great cost, they are revered by chefs and foodies the world over. They are also on our doorstep and available to all who so dare seek them out.
Step 1: Find likely hunting grounds.
Scallops can be found at almost any depth and prefer a sandy or fine gravel sea bottom. It is possible to dive from the shore or a boat but for anyone starting out it is best to avoid areas with strong currents. In the case of boat diving it is imperative that there is always someone on board. Whilst it maybe harder to spot them, scallops can be found at the sandy base of summer kelp forests, and diving amongst these is a thrilling experience where a huge variety of wildlife can be seen.
Step 2: Enter their realm.
Scallops live on the seabed and you must get there for any chance of finding some. There are two options: 1) Scuba diving and 2) Free diving. Scuba allows a longer single hunt but clearly requires specialist equipment. Free diving takes some practice and limits the diver to a single breath's length of time searching however the lack of equipment and no limits on number of dives allows huge flexibility in location choice and time in the water. At Fera we do both and while Scuba will generally return more scallops the joy and freedom of free diving is hard to beat. Just don't forget a good, sturdy net.
Step 3: Seek, locate and grab.
Scallops sit in a shallow recess on the seabed filter feeding through their barely open shell. This is the giveaway. As you move carefully along the seabed, look for a faint outline in the sand, you might even see a frill just outside of the shell opening. Take the scallop and place it in your net. Strange though it sounds, Scallops can swim by rapidly opening and closing their shells so a firm grasp is key. The legal limit for scallops in the UK is 11cm across the shell - it is useful to have a reference ruler as underwater everything looks about a third larger.
Step 4: Prepare and Eat
After time exploring the cool depths of our sea, the hunger will arrive. Luckily, fresh scallops need very little preparation and provide a most glorious morsel. First of all the scallop must be opened and cleaned. To do this, take a knife (a dive knife is perfect) and slide it all the way in at the hinge of the shell. Then with the knife pressed up against the flat side of the shell, slide it along severing the muscle. The shell will now open revealing the plump flesh within. Next, remove everything except the meat and the orange coral and clean the inside of the shell.
Scallops, when this fresh, are fantastic raw and can be eaten alone whole or sliced up and seasoned with a little sea water or citrus or even a dash of whisky. If you prefer to cook your shellfish start with a small fire on the beach. Next, add a small knob of butter to the cleaned, concave side of the shell and place it over the fire. Once the butter begins to foam add the scallop and cook for a minute or so each side. Eat while hot. This can be embellished with the addition of a splash of white wine, or saffron or spiced sausage such as chorizo or nduja.