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Plateau de fruits de mer – Seafood Platter

Greatfood.ie french cookery expert, Sinead Allart describes how to make the classic french Plateau de Fruits de Mer using the best fresh fish. You'll need to order the fish in advance from your fishmonger.


2 crabs
500g prawns
300g periwinkles
4 langoustines per person
500g seasnails (if you can get them)
6 oysters per person



The crab
2 crabs (my cleaning lady tells me that if they are left in water with a dash of vinegar all afternoon they’re somewhat ‘sleepy’ and don’t suffer as much when their final moment comes.....debatable.......I have never had a chat with a crab so it’s difficult to tell.)
Anyway, cook in cold, salted  water, although there are various schools of thought on this one too – some say boiling water kills them instantly, others say that they prefer the cold water as it reminds the crab of the sea.
Once the water has boiled leave them simmer for 20 minutes. Then, remove them to prevent further cooking. Leave to cool. Delicious!

The prawns
500g prawns cooked in cold water, once boiled they change from grey to orange and they’re done. Remove and leave to cool.

The periwinkles
300g periwinkles. Cook again in cold water. Bring to the boil and allow to cook for 3-5 mins (depending on size). Remove from water and cool.

The langoustines
4 langoustines (also called Dublin Bay prawns) per person. Once the water has boiled, leave them for 3 minutes. Remove and cool.

The seasnails
500g seasnails. Wash thoroughly, put into cold water and once boiled leave to simmer for 20-25 mins.  Remove from the water and cool.

The oysters
You'll need 6 oysters per person – just opened.
Serve the ‘ensemble’ on a bed of seaweed on a massive platter placed in the middle of the table.
Serve with homemade mayonnaise, red wine vinaigrette (see recipe below given for the oysters) lemon wedges, lots of crusty bread, salted butter, a chilled bottle of Sancerre/Muscadet or Champagne and you’ve got a convivial meal – prepared in advance. No starter necessary, just serve a nice cheeseboard with a tossed green salad afterwards, a light dessert and coffee ... tout va bien!

Here in France, it’s possible to order ‘un plateau de fruits de mer’ at all fishmongers for about €12 per person (depending on what they put into it, of course. Lobster may be added and that increases the price considerably) – just give them advance warning of at least 24 hours.During the Summer it’s a fab treat. If you are on holidays, ask the fishmonger (le poissonier) to open the oysters for you – they’re used to it and it’s a somewhat delicate business. They provide everything except the mayonnaise and the vinaigrette (but include the finger wipes and the lemon.)

However, having taken the time to prepare my own seafood platter, I don’t believe I’ll be ordering it out  again. The final result is definetely worth the trouble, it offers a much more subtle flavour.
Don’t forget the tool kit and the finger wipes and the ‘poubelle de table – the table bin!

P.S: If you have chickens, they’ll enjoy the leftovers. The shells of the prawns are great for helping their egg shells apparently!              

Oysters – may be eaten raw with lemon juice or with a vinaigrette (at their best when there’s an ‘r’ in the month.....so DecembeR is perfect).
For the vinaigrette:

Finely chop 1 peeled shallot and mix with 2 teaspoons of sugar, 6 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a little pepper.  Serve  on the side and let everyone dip in!

I love cooked oysters.......just put a little garlic butter on each (opened-in-their-shell) oyster and bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Some people place a little camembert on top to give a rich, creamy flavour. Serve with crusty bread, a glass of Sancerre/Muscadet and taste the sea!

Sinéad Allart runs the Wilde Cookery School near Cherbourg. You'll find her at www.wildekitchen.fr

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