WE are incredibly lucky that some of the finest varieties of shellfish can be found in British waters and scallops are a great example of this. Noted for their mild, sweet flavour and firm yet delicate texture, scallops are widely available at this time of the year and a great addition to your festive menu.

Many people assume that scallops are difficult to prepare and cook but that’s really not the case. Unlike mussels and clams, scallops are normally sold already cleaned so there’s virtually no preparation at all.

What’s more, they take a matter of minutes to cook.

Don’t be tempted to overcook scallops though or you’ll ruin their delicate flavour and texture; they are often served rare for this reason.

Because of their unique texture and flavour, scallops can be paired with fairly robust flavours and salty, rich ingredients which perfectly complement the soft and delicate shellfish.

However, one of my favourite scallop recipes is this luxurious and impressive French dish, Coquille St Jacques, which makes a perfect festive starter. This classic Gallic meal is mouth-wateringly good, bubbling with a rich and creamy cheese sauce that is sure to impress your guests.

Ask your fishmonger to clean the scallops for you if possible (but don’t forget to ask for the shells).


(serves two as a starter)

1 large potato suitable for mashing

4 king scallops in their shells

250ml good quality hot fish stock

50g butter

25g flour

2 tbsp. cream

30g Gruyere cheese, grated

Salt & pepper

Olive oil for cooking

Peel and chop the potato and boil in salted water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain and allow to cool slightly then mash with half of the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan until melted then add the flour. Cook for two minutes to create a roux then reduce the heat slightly. Gradually add the fish stock, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened (this could take several minutes). Add the cream and season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for another two minutes then remove from the heat and keep warm.

Carefully remove the scallops from the shells, rinse and remove the muscle that attaches it to the shell. Gently pat dry. Clean two of the deep halves of the shells and dry thoroughly.

Pre-heat the grill to a medium heat.

Add a little oil to a frying pan and once very hot, sear the scallops for one to two minutes on each side until nicely browned. Season lightly then transfer the scallops to the shells, putting two in each.

Pipe or spoon the mashed potatoes around the edge of the shell, around the scallops, then generously spoon the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the cheese then place under the grill for two minutes until the cheese has started to bubble and turn golden.