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Once in a while, I get an overwhelming urge (an itch really…) to throw a big seafood party all for the love of crab. Nobody knows how to cook crab better than the Malaysians. They have come up with every flavor imaginable: chili crab, black pepper crab, sweet and sour crab, butter crab, salted egg crab, ginger crab, salt baked crab, crab in noodle soup, even MARMITE crab! MMMM!!!!! I only have my crab fix when I go home once a year and for the rest of the year I’m left languishing for crab. Don’t tell me I can fix my cravings with soft shell crab. Nothing beats the flavor from the sauce and having to smash your way through the shell to get to the tender, juicy meat and then licking your fingers clean. Ok now I sound like an addict…

The last time we went to Billingsgate Market in southeast London, I saw a stall selling big-ass crabs for dirt cheap. Naturally, that has been on my mind for a long time and needless to say, fueled my cravings even more. So sometime in December, we planned another trip to Billingsgate Market but because of scheduling conflicts, only managed to make it out in the first week of January. All that time in between gave me the opportunity to plan out an extensive lunch menu that would have featured crab as the main dish followed by other “side” dishes of fish, mussels, prawns, scallops and anything we fancied buying from the market. However, that time in between also gave us plenty of time to think of how to kill and quarter the crab AND how to cook it. None of us has ever killed a crab and we spent lots of time researching and watching youtube videos and talking about it but sad to say, we couldn’t pluck up the courage to actually buy a crab and plunge a knife into it…sigh…

With the featured dish out of the menu and into someone else’s plate, I decided to use the cedar planks and grill some fish and scallops on them. Also on the menu was mussels with tomato and chorizo and tea smoked fish. We decided to wake up at 5am (snooze until 5.30) and go to Billingsgate, get our groceries, go to McDonald’s for breakfast, come home and nap, prep and cook and have lunch at 1pm. I am amazed at how easily I can wake up at 5.30am to go to a fish market, and how difficult it is to wake up at 8am to go to work. I am even more amazed that Z woke up and came along! MA, Z and I met WL and KC at the market and we bought enough food to feed an army. Everything is so fresh and cheap! After repeated ooh-ings and ahh-ings, we left Billingsgate just after sunrise.

By noon, people started arriving and I was beginning to panic that we weren’t getting food ready on time. Thankfully, everyone chipped in a little and everything turned out beautifully. I just didn’t have the time to take photos of the smoked fish and the mussels which is a complete shame! Oh well, next time.

The cedar planks were purchased from Cookequip. Clive was so kind to courier my planks and wood chip on short notice without me expecting him to. The planks smelled absolutely heavenly and imparted a lovely taste and smell into the salmon and scallops. I can’t wait to use them again.

Salmon and Bacon wrapped Scallops on Cedar Plank
2 cedar planks, soaked in water for at least 3 hours
For the Salmon:
5-6 steaks of salmon, rinsed and pat dry
sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
salt and black pepper
olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
For the Scallops:
wooden skewers, soaked in water
21 scallops
8 strips of back bacon, sliced thinly enough to wrap around scallop
sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
salt and black pepper
olive oil
Preheat oven to 200C. Remove planks from water and rinse well.
On one plank, lay salmon steaks skin side up over slices of lemon. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the thyme and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until fish starts to flake with a fork. Move to grill function to crisp the skin.
Wrap each scallop in a strip of bacon and skewer 3 scallops with a wooden skewer. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the thyme and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
When baking with planks, it is advisable to place the planks on a baking tray to prevent the drippings from dirtying the oven and for easy clean up.