Scallops on the half shell with a little soy

For years we suffered the flavour loss which comes from that shonky fishmongers’ method of profiting by soaking scallops, purportedly to clean them of any muck from the sea. All they did was rinse them of their best, most subtle flavours, and add large volumes of water, water we paid for on the scales.

Then one or two fishmongers realised that flavour was more important than inflated profits, and decided to serve them ‘dry’ — an ironic title if ever there was one. ‘Dry’ scallops are really scallops soaking in themselves, and are brilliantly flavoured of themselves and the sea. And finally, intrepid divers in the beautiful waters off Port Lincoln in South Australia were able to bring us scallops not only ‘dry’, but still alive, still sitting on their shells.

This is truly glorious eating, and the most simple perfection you can imagine. They are not cheap, never will be, but that comes from limits to the catch, and the fact they all come from individual labour. Worse, they are not readily available from regular fish shops about town, but special fishmongers should be able to get them if they are prepared to make the effort. And when you see the bill, just close your eyes and think of them as a true treat.

4 dessertspoons soy sauce

½ hot chilli, chopped finely

½ clove garlic, chopped very finely

juice of ½ lemon

1 shallot, chopped finely, or a small onion

dozen chives, chopped finely black pepper

2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and chopped into tiny cubes

⅛ teaspoon sugar

at least 6 scallops per portion, cleaned gently to remove any waste material or grit


Mix all the above together (except for the scallops), gently but firmly, so that whatever has to dissolve, dissolves, and whatever has to cling, clings. Set aside for about 10 minutes.


Spoon the mixture about the outside of the scallops reposing in the shell.


Heat the oven to 250°C and put the scallops on a tray, taking care not to lose any of their juices. An excellent method is to use a muffin baking tray and place each scallop into the muffin slots with a little water underneath. Bake for 6–8 minutes, until the scallops are just done. That may seem a long time, but scallops seem to take quite a time to get to like the heat in the oven. Whatever you do don’t overcook them. They should be just, and I meanjust, done, giving to the touch, but far, far from tough. The best thing to do is to check after about 5 minutes. Don’t waste this taste of luxury.


Serve straight from the oven, with stacks of crusty bread to wipe up the magnificent lightly crunchy sauce, which now includes some of the juice of the scallops. Add a touch of black pepper to each.


This recipe is just as appropriate if you can’t get scallops on the shell. It is just as tasty with shelled scallops, and magnificent with squid. Just heat the sauce through gently, letting it get to the boil, and no more, and set aside. Pan-fry the scallops or squid, and when they are cooked, toss the sauce through them.

WINE: Scallops are rich little fellows. You need a wine that’s light, crisp and dry. Try a bottle of French Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. Compare the style to the dry Australian and New Zealand sauvignon blancs which are made from the same grape variety.