Seafood Plateau

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Seafood salads are too often grim travesties, a dumping ground of overcooked ingredients that are cooked together then allowed to sit around and fester. This is called a plateau to distinguish it from these poor relations, for here the end result is improved by cooking all the elements separately and only mixing them together at the last moment before the dish is dressed and brought to the table. This means the different elements are cooked for precisely the right length of time and their individual flavours and textures are kept sharp and identifiable.

Get your fishmonger to open and clean the scallops for you, but ask for the shells which, when scrubbed, will play an important visual part in the presentation.


  • 12 tiger prawns
  • garlic cloves
  • 3 lemons
  • about 175 ml/6 fl oz olive oil
  • 24 mussels
  • 1 glass (150 ml/¼ pt) of dry white wine
  • 4 large scallops with shells
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 24 palourde clams
  • 350 g/12 oz squid bodies or tentacles
  • 1 small hot fresh red chilli
  • 4 tomatoes
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to dress
  • salt and pepper



Remove the heads of the prawns (if present) and reserve for stock. Using a small, sharp knife, cut through their backs. Remove the digestive tract, then cut carefully all the way through the flesh to the inside of the shell, making sure you do not cut through it. Open and gently press them flat to make a triangular shape, with the two pieces of meat on either side and the uncut shell base underneath. Put the prawns flesh side up on a tray.

Peel the garlic and chop as finely as you can. Juice the lemons. Sprinkle most of the garlic over the prawns, then dribble over about two-thirds of the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil. Season and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.


To cook the prawns: preheat the grill and a heavy frying pan on the hob. Put the prawns in the pan, shell down, and cook for 2 minutes. Pour over the marinade and finish by putting the pan under the grill for 3 0 seconds. Transfer to a large serving dish and allow to cool.

Debeard, scrape and wash the mussels, discarding those that don’t close when tapped. Then steam them briefly with the wine in a tightly lidded saucepan until they open. Drain, reserving the juices. Leave to cool and remove the upper shells.

Clean the scallops and slice each into 2 or 3 discs, as their thickness permits. Mix the ground coriander and cumin with ½ teaspoon each of salt and ground black pepper in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently toss the scallop slices in this mixture to coat.

Heat a heavy dry pan until very hot. Lay the scallop slices in it and sear for 30 seconds, then turn and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the pan, allow to cool and put with the prawns.

Cook the palourde clams in a lightly oiled pan over a medium heat until they open. This they usually do one at a time. As they do so, remove and add to the mussels, but do not remove the upper shells. Do not wash the pan as you will use it to finish the dressing.

Cut the squid into bite-sized pieces. Make a seasoned oil as for the scallops, adding the deseeded and finely chopped chilli and the reserved finely chopped garlic clove. Coat the pieces in this oil.

Sauté over a high heat, tossing for 2 minutes. Do not overcrowd the pan: cook in 2 batches if necessary. Remove and allow to cool.

Scald the tomatoes for 30 seconds in a pan of boiling water, refresh briefly in ice-cold water, then peel. Cut in half and deseed with a small spoon, then cut the flesh into small dice.

Put the mussel liquor, the remaining lemon juice, the chopped tomato and the remaining olive oil in the squid pan. Bring to the boil, whisk and remove to cool.


Put all the seafood together in the serving dish. Whisk the just warm dressing and pour it over. Toss gently, trying not to dislodge the clams from their shells. Put the scrubbed scallop shells on individual plates and arrange the seafood on them. Serve immediately, scattered with parsley and dressed with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

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