Seafood salad brings back memories of my apprenticeship in Melbourne, when it was almost the height of sophistication to serve a variety of seafood doused with a marie rose sauce – often just a tomato mayonnaise. This salad is much lighter, with no mayonnaise in sight (although I have to admit to a huge liking for the stuff) and a more modern approach to plating and ingredient selection.
Samphire is a coastal plant that tastes of crunchy brine – there are two types, with rock samphire being preferable to the not closely related marsh samphire. If you can’t find it, then use fine green beans.
Your seafood has to be very fresh – avoid frozen at all costs, but also be prepared to substitute. Rather than using an old frozen langoustine, it’d be better to use fresh crab meat or lobster. Keep an eye on cooking times, as your seafood may not be as large as mine – in which case, cook it less.
Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot of cold water, salt generously and bring to the boil. Cook rapidly until you can insert a sharp knife almost into the centre. You want them three-quarters cooked. Drain and run in cold water for a minute to cool the potatoes a little. Drain and slice into
Cut the aubergines into rounds the same thickness, then brush the oil over the potatoes and aubergine slices, and lightly season. Heat a grill, skillet, barbecue or griddle pan and cook the sweet potato and aubergine slices until golden on both sides, at which point they should be cooked through. Put to one side.
Meanwhile, place the samphire in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and drain. Repeat, then run cold water into the pot for 2 minutes, making sure the samphire doesn’t escape down the sink, then drain. Pick over to remove any woody bits and, if it’s stringy, you’ll have to remove the fleshy green plant from its stem. This is easy to do – just hold the fleshy body firmly between your fingers and pull it away from the stem. Put to one side.
Prepare the basil dressing, set a pot up that will hold a steamer and, when the water is boiling, add the herb to the water and boil for 5 seconds. Scoop the leaves out with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl of iced water to cool, then drain and pat dry between kitchen paper. Place the herbs in a blender with the oil and blitz to a fine purée for 10 seconds. Decant into a glass or jar.
Place the lemon peel in the boiling water and sit the steamer on top. You may need to cook in batches, but do keep in mind that overcooked seafood becomes quite chewy. Place the langoustines in the steamer, cover and cook over a rapid boil for 8 minutes (less for smaller ones). Remove from the steamer, add the prawns and cook for 1 minute, then add the scallops and cook a further 3. It is better to slightly undercook than overcook, so test a scallop by cutting it almost in half – the centre should be slightly opaque but definitely not white.
Using scissors, cut down both sides of the underside of the langoustines’ tails – for lobster, removing the soft ribbed shell as you do so. Arrange the potato and aubergine slices on 4 plates. Place everything else except the dressing and lemon wedges in a large bowl and gently toss, then divide between the plates and drizzle with the basil dressing. Serve with a lemon wedge, lobster crackers and finger bowls.
© 2005 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.