Scallops (like mussels and oysters) are bivalves, which means they have two shells attached by a hinge. There are three edible parts to a scallop: the creamy-white muscle meat, the orange coral (the roe), and the frilly membrane that encloses the muscle. Few people realise the membrane can be used in cooking, and some cultures eschew the coral.


Queen scallops (Chlamys opercularis, also known as queenies) are small, sweet and affordable. King scallops (Pecten maximus) are much larger. Live specimens labelled 'diver-caught' are the best. Avoid scallops that are bright white in colour as they will have been soaked in brine to make them swell and appear larger.


Scallops are easily overcooked and at their best when quickly prepared. Depending on size they should take no more than 5-6 minutes to cook, otherwise they become chewy bullets.


Steaming scallops Chinese style highlights their true flavour, while searing on a hot heavy-based pan gives a lovely sweet edge to the muscle meat. You could also roast them in a hot oven - the shell is a perfect container for baking and serving. Good matches include garlic, cream, mild curry spices, tomato sauces, soy sauce, herbs and white wine.