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Food glossary

Shellfish

Shellfish

Clams

Clams are members of the same family (bivalves) as mussels, scallops and oysters. These small shellfish have a sweet flavour and a firm texture. When buying clams (which are sold live in the shell) allow about 450g per person - the shells make up much of their weight.

Clam seed is grown from a special hatchery process and seeded by hand onto the beds at low tide. They have to be carefully laid and covered with netting to protect them from predators (crab being the main culprit). After three summers feeding naturally on the abundant plankton the clams are harvested. No artificial feeding occurs.

Uses: Clams are a popular choice for adding to soups and pasta sauces. Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) where clams are cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce is a traditional Italian dish.

To store: Refrigerate in a bowl covered with a damp cloth as soon as possible after buying and use within 24 hours.

To prepare: Wash the clams well before cooking - scrub under cold running water with a stiff brush, discard any that have broken, cracked or open shells or any that do not close when tapped firmly.

To cook: Steam clams over boiling water (garlic, white wine, fresh parsley or any flavourings of your choice can be added to enrich the cooking liquid) for 5-10 minutes or until the shells have just opened (reserve the cooking liquor to make a sauce if required). Clams can also be steamed in a sauce - place prepared clams in a tomato sauce, bring to the boil and cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until they are steamed open. Discard any clams that do not open after cooking.

Cockles

A relative of the clam, these smaller shellfish have a pale and delicate flesh. The shell is normally white or cream and roughly circular in shape with ribs radiating from the shell's hinge. Waitrose fresh cockles are reared on sheltered shallow sandbanks located on an area west of Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour.

Wild cockles, usually 2-3 years of age, are collected from natural fishing grounds and re-sown on the chosen site. Here they remain for 6-8 months where they feed naturally on the abundant plankton. No artificial feeding occurs. Cooked cockles are also available in Waitrose. Small clams can be used instead of cockles in recipes.

Uses: Cockles can be sprinkled with vinegar and served simply with brown bread and butter. They are also popular in pasta dishes, risottos, sauces and soups.

To store: Refrigerate in a bowl covered with a damp cloth as soon as possible after buying and use within 24 hours.
To prepare fresh cockles: Wash and scrub the shells thoroughly under cold running water. Discard any damaged shells and any open ones that do not close when tapped firmly.

To cook: Cook cockles in a large pan with a little water (garlic, white wine, fresh parsley or any flavourings of your choice can be added to enrich the cooking liquid), heat gently, shaking the pan occasionally for about 5 minutes or until the shells have opened. Drain well (reserve the cooking liquor to make a sauce if required) and serve. Discard any unopened cockles.

Crab

The brown or edible crab is the only species of crab regularly fished for in European waters and two varieties are sold in Waitrose. Whole Cromer crabs and Dressed Cromer crabs, from Cromer in Norfolk, are renowned for their tender, sweet flesh. More strongly flavoured Whole Devon crabs are also available but they are much larger, weighing about 1kg.

Whole crabs are sold cooked and contain a delicious combination of rich and creamy brown meat in the body cavity and delicate flaky white meat in the legs and claws. A 900g crab should yield about 325g of meat and will serve 2-3 people. Dressed crab is also available in Waitrose, this is ready-cooked crab that has been hand picked from the shell and flaked, it is returned to the cleaned body shell and arranged in strips of white and brown meat.

Uses: Dressed crab is ready to eat and the meat can be served cold as it is from the attractive crab shell. Meat from a whole or dressed crab can be included in a variety of recipes including crab salad (mix the meat with mayonnaise for best results), crab cocktail, seafood risotto, crab cakes, crab toasts, soups, pasta dishes and bakes.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container and use within 24 hours.

To prepare: To remove the meat from a whole cooked crab lay the crab on its back, first remove the front claws and then the legs by twisting sharply. Hold the crab firmly and use your thumbs to press the body out of the shell. Remove and discard the feathery gills (known as dead men's fingers) and any other attachments. Place the top shell on a chopping board and cut into four, remove all the white meat using a sharp knife and a skewer. Scoop out the brown meat from the back shell and reserve. Crack open the claws using nutcrackers, a mallet or a heavy weight, remove the shell and pull away the meat and flesh inside the pincers. Repeat this process with the legs. Flake all the meat and use according to your recipe.

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Dublin Bay prawns

Also known as langoustines (in France), scampi (in Italy) or Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawns are the largest type of prawns available, their narrow bodies can measure up to 25cm in length and they have small pincer claws. They are usually a pinky-red colour although they can also be quite pale. If you buy Dublin Bay prawns sold in the shell there will be a lot of wastage (up to 80%) so make sure you buy sufficient - 6 is ample for a generous starter portion. The shells can be used to make stock.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container and use within 24 hours.

To prepare: To peel shell-on prawns, pull off the head and legs and then peel the shell off with your fingers. With a small, sharp knife make a small slit down the centre of the curved back of the prawn. Remove the black vein with the point of the knife. Rinse the prawn under cold running water and dry gently with kitchen paper. To flatten the prawns (known as butterflying), remove the shell from the prawn but leave the tail shell intact. With sharp kitchen scissors, cut the prawn along the inner curve to expose the dark vein. Spread the prawn out, remove the vein and rinse under running water. Dry well on kitchen paper.

To cook: To stir-fry heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook whole prawns for 5-6 minutes or until pink. Or place on a baking tray and brush with a little butter (garlic butter works well) and cook under a preheated grill for 5-8 minutes or until the prawns are cooked right through. Prawns can also be poached in gently simmering salted water for 8-10 minutes, the stock can then be used in a soup or sauce if required.

Fruits de Mer

Frozen fruits de Mer or mixed seafood is available in Waitrose containing a mixture of mussels, tiger king prawns, scallops and squid rings. The seafood are ready to cook.

Uses: Add to soups, pies, stir-fries or pasta dishes.

To store: Keep frozen for up to 3 months. Once defrosted do not refreeze but keep refrigerated and cook within 24 hours.

To cook:Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the frozen seafood and stir fry for 5 minutes over a moderate heat. Serve immediately.

Langoustines

See Dublin Bay prawns.

Lobster

Often considered to be the king of shellfish, lobster flesh is sweet and meaty. The distinctive red colour of cooked lobster is quite different from the dark blue colour of the live fish. Freshly cooked British and Canadian lobsters are sold in Waitrose. When buying a whole cooked lobster allow about 450g per person - the shells are quite heavy in proportion to the amount of meat. Lobsters are a delicacy and their price reflects the labour intensive methods needed to catch them.

Uses: Fresh lobster meat can be served simply with melted butter or mayonnaise, it can be grilled in the shell and served with a sauce or the meat can be removed from the shell and mixed with a cheese sauce and then returned to the shell and grilled. Lobster meat can also be included in bakes, soups, pies and mousses.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container and use within 24 hours.

To prepare: To remove the meat from a cooked lobster start by taking off the legs and claws, crack the claws with a hammer and extract the meat. Scoop out the meat from the legs with a teaspoon handle. Place the lobster on its back on a chopping board and with a sharp knife, cut the lobster in half lengthways. Remove and discard the white sac, the gills and the dark intestinal thread from the tail. Remove the meat from the tail and scrape out the creamy flesh from the shell. The green-coloured tomalley (liver) is a delicacy and can be eaten with the meat and the red coral can be mixed with butter to make lobster butter or sauce.

To cook: To grill cooked lobster meat, split the lobster in half from head to tail, place flesh side up on a grill pan and brush with a little olive oil or melted butter, season well and grill under a high heat for 8-10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the shell side. Dot the grilled flesh with butter and serve with a cream, wine or cheese sauce.

To serve cooked lobster meat in a sauce in the shell, remove the flesh from the shell and combine with a hot cheese or white sauce, return the mixture to the shell and sprinkle with grated cheese and grill under a preheated hot grill until golden brown and heated right through.

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Mussels

With their unique succulent and sweet, juicy flavour, mussels are quick and simple to prepare. They are one of the most popular shellfish available and are members of the same family of bivalves as clams, cockles, scallops and oysters. Farmed mussels, which are available from Waitrose have a meatier and tastier flesh than wild ones. Mussels attach themselves to ropes or rocks with a wiry substance or beard, which is found at the base of the shell. Mussel shells may also have barnacles attached. When buying shell-on mussels allow around 500g per portion, as the shells make up much of the weight. Medium-sized clams can be used in place of mussels. Raw mussels deteriorate rapidly when dead - live or cooked mussels are available from Waitrose.

Scottish mussels

Waitrose Fresh Scottish mussels are reared on ropes suspended from rafts or long lines in sheltered sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland. The mussels never come into contact with the seabed which guarantees they are grit free. Mussel seed settles naturally on the suspended ropes, where they remain for three years, feeding on the abundant natural plankton. No artificial feeding occurs. Waitrose fresh Scottish mussels are available from the service fish counter from June through to March.

Uses: Add fresh mussels to pasta dishes, stir fries, sauces, soups, risottos, creamy sauces or fish pies. And of course, mussels can be steamed, as in the classic French recipe Moules à la Marinière (mussels cooked in white wine with shallots, thyme and parsley).

To store:Refrigerate in a bowl covered with a damp cloth as soon as possible after buying and use within 24 hours. Do not store live mussels in fresh water or they will die.

To prepare: Wash the mussels well before cooking - scrub under cold running water with a stiff brush and remove any barnacles or weed. Cut off the beards with scissors. Discard any that have broken, cracked or open shells or any that do not close when tapped firmly.

To cook:Live mussels are usually steamed directly in a flavoured cooking liquid. Bring the cooking liquid (stock or wine) to the boil and add the closed mussels, steam for 5 minutes and discard any that have not opened. Remove from the pan and boil the cooking liquid until reduced, serve the mussels with the sauce and plenty of crusty bread.

New Zealand green shell mussels

Cooked New Zealand green shell mussels, also known as green-lipped mussels (so called because of the distinctive green lip around the inside of the shell), are available from Waitrose. They are unique to New Zealand's coastal waters and are the largest variety of mussel they can grow to over 23 cm. Green shell juveniles, known as spat, are collected from the wild and reared in nursery farms. Once the mussels have grown to sufficient size they are seeded on to ropes suspended by long lines on selected growing farms. After 10-15 months feeding on the naturally abundant plankton the mussels are harvested. Waitrose sell half shell New Zealand green shell mussels which are opened by hand, rapidly chilled and inspected for quality prior to blanching, freezing and packing. The mussels are sold in their shells which make attractive 'serving dishes'.

Uses: Large New Zealand green mussels can be stuffed and baked. They can also be served with cheese or herb butter toppings or included in seafood dishes such as paella and chowder.

To store: Keep in the fridge either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container, and use within 24 hours.

To cook: To bake stuffed New Zealand green mussels, preheat the oven to 190?C, gas mark 5, place the mussels on a baking tray and spoon the filling of your choice over. Bake for 10 minutes or until heated right through.

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Oysters

Oysters are a popular shellfish all over the world, probably partly due to their reputation as an aphrodisiac! The succulent flesh has a distinctive salty flavour with a soft creamy texture. Fresh Scottish oysters are available in Waitrose. They are reared in the clean waters of remote sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland, where they feed on the abundant natural plankton. Allow 6-12 oysters each for a main course.

Uses: Oysters are usually served raw, simply seasoned with black pepper and lemon juice or Tabasco sauce. They can also be grilled very lightly to make delicious canapés.

To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours, with the cupped shell downwards and covered with a damp cloth.

To prepare: Only use oysters that are tightly shut or which close when tapped. Any oysters that stay open are dead and must be discarded. To separate the shells, place the oyster on a level surface, wrapped in kitchen paper, with the flat shell uppermost and the hinged edge facing you. Hold by firmly pressing down with the palm of your hand.

Insert an oyster knife into the small gap in the hinge and prise the shells apart by levering upwards with a twisting movement. Slide the blade along the inside edge of the upper shell to sever the muscle that holds the shells together. Discard the top shell and retain as much of the liquor in the lower shell as possible. Remove any broken shell with the point of the knife. To cut the oyster loose, grip the lower shell firmly and run the knife blade under the oyster meat to sever the muscle attaching it to the shell.

Scallops

The most distinctive looking of all shellfish, scallops have two pretty fan-shaped shells which contain a small, firm round of tender delicately flavoured white flesh with a more strongly flavoured cream and orange roe attached. Scallops are members of the same family (bivalves) as clams, cockles and mussels. They are usually harvested by dredging but a small proportion of scallops are hand picked by divers and these fetch the highest prices. There are many species of scallops, but in the UK there are two main types: the king scallop and the queen scallop. King scallops are the larger variety and their shells can measure up to 15cm. Allow 4-5 king scallops per person for a main course. Queen scallops are tiny scallops measuring about 5cm across, serve a dozen per person for a main course. If you buy scallops in the shell, wash and keep the shells to serve a range of fish dishes in. Fresh king scallops from Scotland and Cornwall are available in Waitrose as well as Canadian roeless scallops.

Uses: Scallops can be poached, grilled or fried.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container, and eat within 24 hours. Fresh scallops can be frozen for up to 3 months, thaw thoroughly in the fridge before use and never refreeze scallops that have been previously frozen.

To prepare: To open the shell, rest the hinge of the shell on a flat surface, insert a small knife into one of the openings on either side of the shell, just above the hinge and prise open slightly. To remove the flesh from the shell, sever the muscle attaching the meat to the shell and discard the dark coloured parts of the scallop. Remove the meat and rinse well under cold running water. If the scallops are large, slice the white fish in half horizontally.

To cook: Scallops only require a very short cooking time or their flavour and texture are spoilt.

Poach for a couple of minutes in stock or white wine. Or wrap in bacon and grill for 5-10 minutes or until cooked through.

To pan-fry, heat a little oil or butter in a frying pan and fry the scallops for 2-3 minutes. Scallops can also be stir-fried and go particularly well with Oriental flavours such as ginger, coriander and lemon grass. A classic recipe is Coquilles St Jacques where poached scallops are returned to their shells, covered in a cheese sauce and then grilled or baked.

Squid

Also known as calamari, squid is a member of the same family as cuttlefish and octopus and is very popular in many Mediterranean and Asian countries. Squid have a cylindrical body, with a transparent inner shell, they are strong swimmers and often form large dense shoals. They feed on small fish and crustaceans, which they catch with their long tentacles and legs. The pouch, tentacles, fins and ink are all edible. When left whole the pouch is ideal for stuffing. Calamari rings and Breaded calamari ringsproduced from the New Zealand Arrow Squid, are available in Waitrose as well as Whole stuffed squid from Thailand.

Uses: Cut into rings and fry, stuff and bake or poach. Calamari rings can be added to pasta dishes, risottos, salads and stir-fries.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container, and eat within 24 hours.

To prepare: Ask the fishmonger at Waitrose to trim and prepare whole fresh squid for you.

To cook: Small or baby squid only require a very short cooking time, simply poach in boiling water or stock for 1-2 minutes. Medium-sized squid can be cut into rings, coated with flour or batter and deep-fried for 1-2 minutes. Large squid require a longer cooking time to tenderise the flesh, which can be tough and chewy, check your recipe for cooking times.

Prawns

A wide variety of different prawns are found all over the world. Prawns sold in Waitrose include both cold and warm water varieties: Cooked and peeled prawns from the North Atlantic, Whole tiger prawns and Crevettes from Madagascar and Freshwater prawns from India. Peeled prawns need virtually no preparation and cooked, peeled prawns are ready to eat. Tiger prawns (so called because of their striped tail) are large prawns native to the Far East and are a blue grey colour when raw. When buying shell-on prawns allow about 300g per person - there will be a lot of wastage once the prawns are shelled.

Uses: Prawns can be used in a wide variety of recipes, ranging from prawn cocktail to stir-fried prawns and prawn curry. Cooked peeled prawns can be served in salads, sandwiches or stirred into cooked pasta just before serving.

To store: Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase, either in the original wrapping or in a sealed airtight plastic container and use within 24 hours.

To prepare: To peel shell-on prawns, pull off the head and legs and then peel the shell off with your fingers. With a small, sharp knife make a small slit down the centre of the curved back of the prawn. Remove the black vein with the point of the knife. Rinse the prawn under cold running water and dry gently with kitchen paper. To flatten a large prawn (known as butterflying), remove the shell from the prawn but leave the tail shell intact. With sharp kitchen scissors, cut the prawn along the inner curve to expose the dark vein. Spread the prawn out, remove the vein and rinse under running water. Dry well on kitchen paper.

To cook: To stir-fry prawns, heat a little oil in a frying pan and stir fry peeled prawns for 2-3 minutes, cook whole tiger prawns for 5-6 minutes or until pink. Large prawns such as tiger prawns can also be grilled - place on a baking tray and brush with a little butter (garlic butter works well) and cook under a preheated grill for 5-8 minutes or until the prawns are cooked right through.

Prawns can also be poached in gently simmering salted water, smaller varieties will take 3-4 minutes to cook and larger types 8-10 minutes, the stock can then be used in a soup or sauce if required.

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