Why hello. I want my blog this week to reflect what I’ve been up to in the last week or so. Which is to say: cooking. In a locked-down house of 6, which eats dinner together every night, the scope and the aplomb of everybody’s cooking has been notable throughout. And I’d be being overly modest to say I hadn’t rustled up some pretty decent dinners. For Ellie’s birthday a few weeks back, I enjoyed cooking a duck breast stir fry which was colourful, flavoursome and aromatic.
On another occasion recently I was called upon to provide a starter, and I want to share the recipe with you for what I cooked: scallops, pea purée and bacon. It only takes about 20 minutes from preparation to service if you’re well organised. I’ll leave quantities up to you and your instincts, but suggest that as a starter, 3-4 scallops per person seems about right. The purée and bacon amounts are totally up to your tastes. OK, ‘here goes’, as our American friends say.
For the pea and mint purée:
Boil a large amount of frozen garden peas in a pan of hot water for 2-3 minutes, then drain. Let them cool for a few minutes before proceeding. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop 1 clove of garlic (per person), roughly chop a generous handful of fresh mint leaves, and halve a lemon. Once the peas have cooled, add them to a food mixer/blender/nutribullet with a generous glug of olive oil, the juice of your two lemon halves, the chopped garlic, the chopped mint, and a dessert spoon of natural yoghurt. Blitz lightly, to create a thick and chunky purée (try not to let it become a smooth paste). Set this aside in the fridge, ready for service.
For the bacon:
Heat your oven to 220C, line a baking tray with foil, and lay on it 1 rasher of bacon per person. Streaky bacon works best, but any type will be fine. Put the bacon in the pre-heated oven and check on it after c.15 minutes, turning when necessary. Keep checking the bacon and only remove it when it’s so crispy that it will shatter rather than tear. Once it’s perfectly crispy like this, dab off any excess oil and let it cool down for a few minutes. Once you can handle it comfortably, get a bowl and (with your fingers) begin crumbling the bacon into very fine little shards. Set aside for service.
For the scallops:
Prepare your scallops (try to get them with their roe still attached – it’s delicious) by removing them from the fridge so they get to room temperature, and patting them dry with kitchen towel if there’s any moisture on them. Grind a small amount of black pepper over them once they’re dry.
Then heat up a generous amount of oil in a large frying pan, until it’s so hot it’s starting to spit. Add a knob of butter, so that it foams up with the hot oil, and then place each scallop (wide side-down) firmly into the pan. Once they’ve hit the oil and started cooking, don’t move them at all for at least a minute. Once they’ve been sizzling in the butter and oil for a minute or so, check that the cooked side has got a slightly charred and caramelised tinge, and at that point turn them over to cook the opposite end. At this point you can turn the heat down a bit.
Once you’ve flipped your scallops over and the other side is cooking away nicely, get your plates ready, and give each one a generous dollop of pea + mint puree as a base. Once the scallops are finished, place them in a row on top of the purrée (crispiest side up), and then sprinkle bacon shards over the top, and add a squeeze more of lemon juice over the top to serve.
If you wanted to turn this into a main dish, simply increase the volumes, add a couple more scallops per person, and serve with some steamed tender-stem broccoli and roasted (20 mins) and crushed charlotte potatoes.
Let me know how you get on via Instagram or Facebook (Patrick Dunachie KS)!
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