Bloke in the Kitchen. Simple seafood


Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

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Seafood is one of nature’s delights. Much of it comes in little, bite-size pieces, cooks in no time and is endlessly versatile.

The exceptions to that are octopus and squid, so we will leave them out this time.

For this recipe we’re going to use prawns (shrimp if you’re speaking American) and scallops, if you can find some.

In restaurants nowadays you often find prawns with the tail shell still on, or even completely shell-on, and one reason for that is that they shrink and the shell helps them retain their size and shape.

But it’s a faff, as we say in the UK, taking the shells off when they’re hot and covered in oily sauce.

The alternative is to cook them very quickly. Just look at them: small and thin and fairly soft You can cook them in seconds, and that’s what we’re going to do

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Scallops with the roe…
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…and without


Large shelled prawns /shrimp, raw or cooked, defrosted

Scallops (and don’t get rid of the orange part – it’s the roe, sometimes known as coral, and it’s fine to eat – very tasty.

One or two large fresh tomatoes

Fresh chilli pepper



Fresh ginger

Lemon zest



Heat a little butter in a good, heavy frying pan.

Add the chopped chili, grated garlic, chopped chives and grated ginger

Cut tomatoes in half and grate them (yes, grate them) into the pan

Just give this a minute on a fairly low heat. You’re not really cooking anything, but combining it and bringing out the flavour.

Add the scallops

Throw in the prawns, turn the heat up to medium and let them sizzle.

If they’re already cooked, all you want to do is warm them.

If they’re raw, give them a minute or so, until they lose their transparent look.

Grate in some lemon zest and squeeze in a little juice

When it’s hot, chop some cilantro or parsley and throw that in. It just gives some extra freshness to the dish.

Serve with rice, noodles or even spaghetti.

It’s light and fresh-tasting, with the citrus and herbs sparkling along with the natural salty sea flavour.

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And it should look something like this


Bloke in the Kitchen. Barbecued seafood with avocado and palm hearts


Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

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Shrimps on the barbie: this lot are pretty small, but see what you can find

Seeing actual fish on a barbecue is relatively rare and there is a reason for that. Food tends to stick to the bars on a barbecue and fish is soft, so it is too easy to tear it, break it, and generally make a mess of it. With a nice big steak from some chunky fish such as salmon you might be okay, but other than that it is quite a challenge.

It helps if the bars are shiny and clean, but that means you have to cook the fish first, and anyway, how many of us have the time or inclination to get the thing back to pristine condition? We’ll clean it, yes, scrub it with a scouring pad and maybe take a nostalgic trip down Brillo Pad Lane, but there are likely to be brown spots where it should be gleaming like a lake in a fairy story.

If you’re a real fish fiend and determined to have a go, the best thing is to buy some of those fish-shaped sort of cages. You put a fish inside and close it, and the flesh doesn’t actually touch the barbecue at all. The cage does, and the fish is right next to it, so it cooks but doesn’t stick.

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Fish holders, cages, baskets, contraptions. Whatever you call them, they keep the delicate flesh from sticking to the bars.

The best I can find as a technical term is “fish holder”, so if you’re trying to explain it to the assistant in the shop that sells this kind of thing, you’re going to be doing some descriptive business with your hands.

Alternatively, you could wrap a piece of fish in aluminium foil and slap that on, just as you put it in the oven. A fish fillet, a slice of lemon or some herbs on top, place it on some foil and wrap it up. It won’t have any of the barbecue flavor, but it will cook.

Remember, too, that fish generally takes less time, so however you choose to do it, make sure you don’t overcook it.

Far easier is to use prawns, or some other kind of seafood such as scallops, and because these are relatively small, they are often done on skewers (permanent steel ones or single-use wooden). This means you get kebabs, and you can either make a whole skewer of, say, shrimps, or mix in pieces of pepper or other roastable vegetables.

If you do that, try to make sure the pieces don’t stick out much further than the shrimps or scallops, or they will get burnt before the shrimps are done.

Cheap disposable barbecue, wooden skewers, some prawns and rings of squid. Elementary, my dear Watson

Squid does pretty well on a barbecue. If you use baby ones, you will need to clean them to get all the gunge out, but once that is done, sling them on the bars for a couple of minutes and they’re ready. For preparation, check out my recipe for Sea-Flavoured Squid: on the homepage, click on the search tool and type squid.

The most important thing to remember when barbecuing anything is that it’s not the smooth, predictable process you find in a good kitchen. Out there you’re thinking on your feet, making it up as you go along and just getting the job done.

Which brings us to the accompaniments. To go with fish there is a great, easy sauce called Chermoula. Click the search tool on the homepage and type chermoula.

Knock up a potato salad. Cut the spuds into chunks and boil them, then cool and drain them and mix in some mayonnaise plus a sprinkling of chopped parsley (mainly for decoration). Don’t be stingy with the mayo. A little salt and pepper and there’s your bulk, your carbohydrates.

You could do something similar with pasta (fusilli, farfalle, penne etc.): cook it, cool it, drain it, add some mayo or even just olive oil and herbs, maybe some diced tomato or cucumber. Radishes, capers… Do what you like: it’s not governed by the Ten Commandments.

As for vegetable salads etc, it is tempting to knock up a standard-issue lettuce-based number, but we all know people only eat a few forkfuls out of a sense of duty.

But if you want to give your guests something they will actually like, here is a fantastic quick salad dish: avocado with palm hearts. It depends on there being some nice ripe avocados available, but let’s assume there are. Any decent supermarket or deli will have cans of palm hearts. They come in a sort of brine to keep them in good condition, and the hearts look like white candles, not a million miles away from asparagus, but with a flavour all their own.

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Palm hearts: the avocado’s secret love

So, peel and slice the avocados – nice big slices if people are sitting down, or you can cut them up if everybody’s standing up, juggling with wine glasses. Open a can of palm hearts and drain off the brine. Lay one or two over the avocado (again, cut them up if people are going to find it difficult to use a knife and fork).

You will hear one three-part question: “What are these things, where can I get some and why have I never noticed them before?” Then a statement-question: “Aren’t they just perfect with avocados.”