Crab Bisque

My Shellfish Bisque

Crab Bisque
Jersey Crab Bisque with white crab meat

I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.

What is the difference between soup and bisque?

Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.



An Island Chef Top Soup Recipies

Beer and Cheese Bisque

Seafood Tom yam Soup

Cauliflower Veloute with Curry Oil and Cauliflower Pakora

Gazpacho

Patatas Riojanas - Spanish Chorizo and Potato Soup
I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner. 

My Thai Coconut Fish Soup – Nothing to be Shy about

See what I did there another terrible pun. But I remember the village fetes when I was growing up and there was always a coconut shy. You aimed a small hard wooden ball to knock down coconuts and win a prize. The only other time I encountered coconut in my childhood was the giant box of Bassett’s Liquorish Allsorts at Christmas. I ate far too many and was violently ill. It then took years to be able to stomach anything coconut flavoured. Thankfully I now like coconut in curries, desserts and love coconut sorbet. So I am not really happy to bring you this very tasty recipe for Thai Coconut Fish Soup. I still think desiccated coconut is made from Satan’s hoof clippings.

Coconut

I love the contrasts and combinations in Thai cooking, salt, sweet, heat and sour. Recipes such as Thai style crab cakes and Seafood Tom Yam. Most of the aromatic ingredients are now available in a good supermarket or specialist Asian shop. You can use creamed coconut or coconut milk in the recipe and any seafood you really fancy. I have used monkfish but you can use any firm white fish. You can add prawns, squid, and mussels if you wish. This soup honours the spirit of Thai cooking rather than being wholly authentic so uses key Thai ingredients. There are chillies, galangal, coriander, and garlic flavouring the coconut base.

Thai fish soup

Thai-style Seafood Soup is a tasty favourite, poached monkfish and prawns, simmered in the spicy coconut broth flavoured with classic Thai ingredients. The kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and crispy deep-fried shallots are all available in good Asian retailers or markets.

Diver caught Scallops with Lentils and Bacon – Seafood Week 2018

Seafood week

Now I have already posted how much I adore cooking and eating great seafood. You have to excuse me but come on everyone I live on an island. In Jersey we are graced with some of the most amazing seafood you will eat. Now you may positively love lobster or crave freshly picked crab, but my favourite ( astute readers may have guessed already ) is the succulent scallop. So here is my recipe for Diver caught Scallops with Lentils and Bacon. If you visit Jersey you can also choose mackerel in season, skate, and plaice. If you like shellfish then mussels and oysters are grown in the clear waters around the island. In short, an abundance of fish and shellfish.

Scallop
Scallop on the Shell

Protecting the Marine Environment.

Before I get to the recipe the only scallops you should consider eating are diver caught. Cheaper commercially dredged scallops can cause considerable damage to the seabed. Here is a link about sourcing sustainable fish and seafood. The Marine Stewardship Council helps conserve fishing stocks for the future.

Whenever I cook scallops I always think of the actress Uma Thurman stepping out of a gigantic scallop shell. In one of her earliest roles as Venus in the madcap film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, it is a striking piece of cinematography. The whole scene is beautiful and I like to think that this is a beautiful dish. I’m not the most refined and elegant cook but this is really a simple but stunning recipe. It pairs the sweet scallops and tomatoes with a hint of smoke and saltiness from the bacon. 

Scallops and Lentils

The Wine ChoiceThere are an awful lot of flavours and textures in this dish, so we need a wine that has similar attributes. The strongest flavour on the plate is going to be the bacon but if we choose a red to match solely to that we lose the delicacy and subtle sweetness of the scallops. Likewise, if we match a delicate white purely for the scallops we risk the wine being overpowered by the savoury bacon and sweet tomato flavours. A Sancerre Rosé, made from the Pinot Noir grape, dry with aromas of strawberries and gooseberries covers all the bases.

Scallops with Lentils and Bacon is ideal as a fantastically tasty starter or suitably scintillating summery lunch or supper served with crusty French bread.
Mouclade - Curried Mussels

My Mouclade

Who knows why food or for that matter anything goes out of fashion? I understand the immense commercial pressures that drive constant changing styles as a means to generate more sales but classics are, well exactly that, and need to be cooked and promoted and certainly not overlooked and left in dusty recipe books on cobwebbed shelves. Please don’t get me wrong I am not a culinary Luddite ( I have a food blog ! ) but from previous posts, you will see I am somewhat of a classic recipe champion. I guess today’s dish was overtaken by the wave of fusion cooking combining Asian style ingredients with traditional western cooking techniques. A Thai green curry of some description almost became ubiquitous on every restaurant menu and Thai style mussels were no exception. The precursor of the Thai curried mussel was the traditional French dish Mouclade.

Mouclade - Curried Mussels
Mouclade – Curried Mussels

My memories of back street family run bistros with Formica tables and BYO drinking ( Bring Your Own, normally from the off licence just down the street ) was that the dining was strictly hit and miss. Of course, the memory of the successes carries on, I remember eating a simple pan-fried cod’s roe with lemon, parsley, and brown butter in a Greek style taverna in Charing Cross that really hit the spot and Mouclade in a tiny two storey French café/bar just behind my student accommodation in Huddersfield*. You cannot really get any further from the sea than Huddersfield or perhaps anywhere less Gallic than a Yorkshire mill town but oh those mussels. And what’s not to like with Mouclade, plump, salty, full of flavour mussels in a bowl of creamy lightly spiced sauce with mountains of crusty bread.

The following recipe for Mouclade is my adaptation of the classic recipe, the fish stock adding depth and richness to the finished sauce and the mango chutney a touch of sweetness. You can use white wine, but I think the finished result with the cider adding a touch of necessary acidity is I believe more in keeping with the Brittany origins of the dish. The saffron may seem a little extravagant but the resulting colour is glorious. If you wish to make a somewhat simpler version of Mouclade, you can omit the egg yolks just add the cream and boil to reduce the sauce before returning to the mussels and serving.

*I have eaten the dish since in France and it was just as good, well almost!

 

Mouclade                 serves  up to 6 people

Around 2 kilos fresh Mussels ( about 400 gr to 650 gr of mussels per person )

A good sized nugget of Butter

A slug of quality Olive Oil

6 large Leeks, washed, trimmed and finely diced

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml of quality Fish Stock

125 ml of Strong Dry Cider

125 ml Thick Cream

1 heaped tablespoon good quality mild Curry Powder

1 tablespoon Mango Chutney

¼ teaspoon fresh Thyme

A generous pinch of Saffron threads

2 Fresh free-range Egg Yolks

A good handful of Coriander, washed, dried and roughly chopped

Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons

Freshly ground Black Pepper

In a very large heavy bottomed pan melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme and sauté for at least ten minutes to soften them. Turn up the heat and add the fish stock, cider, curry powder, mango chutney and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Bring to a simmer and cook for ten more minutes, stirring regularly. Then tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam the mussels for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, saffron, and cream.

Remove the mussels from the heat and strain off the cooking liquor, replace the lid and keep warm. Heat the liquor in a smaller pan until it starts to simmer and add the cream and egg mix, continuously stirring and cook for two more minutes. Do not boil as the sauce will curdle, just gently simmer until it starts to thicken and goes glossy. Add the sauce back to the mussels, stir to coat all the mussels, finish with the chopped coriander and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish Milk Oyster

Please see the Allergens Page

Scallops - Coquillies St. Jaques

Coquilles St. Jacques

Coquilles St. Jacques is a classic of French cuisine, gently poached scallops and mushrooms in a rich, cream sauce, garnished with enriched mashed potato and gratinated. It is a real dinner party staple from the 1970’s but definitely none the worse for that, done right Coquilles St. Jacques is a real pleasure to eat. I love scallops and my style of cooking when I first trained definitely used lots of cream and butter so this soon became a favourite dish of mine. Coquilles St. Jacques is still a very popular dish now and always sells out when we put it on the specials boards in any of the restaurants I work in.

Scallops - Coquillies St. Jaques
Coquillies St. Jaques

Coquilles St. Jacques                        serves 6 

The great thing for the home cook is Coquilles St. Jacques can be prepared early, left on the shells and chilled then baked later for five or ten minutes longer than indicated in the recipe below. Be careful when poaching the scallops to not overcook as they can soon go rubbery.

For Mashed Potatoes

800 gr King Edward potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons salted Butter

2 tablespoons Double Cream

1 Egg Yolk

A pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

Sea Salt and freshly ground White Pepper

For Scallop filling

12 Scallops, trimmed and patted dry on kitchen paper

150 gr Button Mushrooms, wiped and quartered

2 Shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 large knobs of Butter ( 2 tablespoons )

3 heaped tablespoons Plain Flour

125 ml good White Wine

125 ml Water

60 ml Double Cream

A generous splash of Vermouth

Juice of half a freshly squeezed Lemon

1 small Bouquet Garni

2 tablespoons of Chives, finely chopped

Fine Sea Salt and freshly ground White Pepper

150 gr grated Gruyère cheese

50 gr Breadcrumbs

 6 Scallop shells

For the mashed potatoes

Place the potatoes into a large pan and cover with water and add a half teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes for twenty minutes until tender. Remove from the heat and drain, return to the pan and put back on the heat to steam dry for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat again and the pass through a moulis. Add the butter, cream, egg yolk, and nutmeg and beat in to thoroughly combine and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Scallop filling

In a medium saucepan bring the water, wine, bouquet garni, and lemon juice to a low boil. Carefully add the scallops, and simmer for three minutes. Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper. Drop the mushrooms into the simmering cooking liquid and cook for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and strain out the mushrooms keeping the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the shallots, cook over a moderate heat until very soft, but not coloured, stir in the flour to make a roux. Cookout for a couple of minutes until golden then whisk in the hot scallop poaching liquid. Add the cream and vermouth and cookout covered with a cartouche on the lowest possible simmer. After half an hour taste to see if the floury texture is cooked out and season as required. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Slice the scallops in half lengthwise and add to the sauce with the mushrooms and chives.

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4. Spoon the filling into six scallop shells or small gratin dishes and pipe around the edge with the mashed potatoes. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the cheese and top with the breadcrumbs then bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes, until the cheese and potatoes are golden brown. Carefully remove from the oven and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour   Milk Oyster

Please see the Allergens Page