Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Billingsgate Market: All Sea Food Meal

Much interest in this earlier post:

Billingsgate ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
Having the advantage of living near Billingsgate Fish Market in London,  the Cockroach Catcher always finds great pleasure in getting the freshest seafood and cooking it in the simplest possible way.

Last Saturday, we managed to get a dozen fresh scallops, three live crabs (brown crabs) and a two-pound Dover Sole.

At Billingsgate, one is allowed to pick one’s own scallops and crabs. The trick with scallop is you want those with tightly shut shells.  In cold weather, freshness is not a problem.

Brown crabs are one of the best value seafood in the world. The shells are hard and the flesh sweet and very firm.  Some like males (with their narrow underbelly flap) and others prefer females (with a much rounder flap). The females are best just before Christmas.

The Dover Sole I got from my trusted fishmonger from Selsey, near where I used to live.  Dovers with their nice firm flesh are amongst the best tasting fish around - truly a winner amongst small flat fish.

All good cooks know that if you get the best ingredients, there is not much you need to do.

Scallops ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
Throughout the years, I have somehow picked up the know how of cleaning fish and shell fish and so it was not much of a problem.

Our favourite way of preparing scallops is to steam them in their open shells and serve them in their delicate natural juice.  First, you need to take out the guts and the protective lips. The lips you can fry separately with garlic and olive oil. With very fresh scallops, all the seasoning you need is a few grains of good sea salt crystal on serving. Steaming time is around two minutes and 45 seconds.

We had the scallops as starters and the Dover Sole as the main course.  As the fish was quite big, we decided not to have the crabs on the same day.   In true Teochiu style, we steamed the crabs and then left them untouched in the fridge for the next day.  Cold Teochiu crab is a delicacy from my home village.

The Dover Soles as sold in Billingsgate are already cleaned, so there is generally not much you need to do. You can try to scale it before cooking, but the scales are tiny and not easy to remove.  As the skin is not normally consumed, it can be peeled on serving.

The Chinese like their fresh fish steamed.  Steaming can be done in a fish kettle.  If you do not have one, wrap the fish in foil and put it in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for 25 minutes for a 2-pound fish. Steaming in a kettle takes about the same time.

Dover Soles can be steamed without any seasoning or with a few slivers of fresh ginger.  Some like to serve the steamed fish with a good quality soya sauce, mixed with a little bit of oil.

The following day we had the cold crabs: delightfully fresh and sweet tasting.  Any seasoning? None was required.

There was a good bit of roe.  We often make crab roe cakes by beating a couple of eggs in with the roe and pan frying the mixture with olive oil and minced fresh garlic.  If you like, you can add some cooked rice as filler.

The paired wine: Puligny Montrachet 1er Les Referts (2004).  This has a delightful apricot and almond nose, and in taste a herbal fruitiness and subtle buttery character typical of Puligny Montrachet.  A good match for the freshest seafood simply prepared.

So ended two days of delicious Billingsgate fun!

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