Seared Scallop Spring Delight

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Seared Scallop Spring Delight

Radishes, as you may recall if you read my blog last June, are one of my very favourite salad veg. It is a relation of the turnip, and not surprisingly given its mild pepperiness – horseradish. It has been used since prehistoric times over a huge swathe of the Old World from Western Europe to China and Japan. There was a rumour reported by the Greek writer, Herodotus, that the slaves who built the pyramids ate them whilst they worked. He actually mentions an inscription on the Great Pyramid itself to that effect – sadly it has long since been worn away. Like the thought though of them having pocketfuls – did they have pockets? – of radishes whilst they shovelled sand and shifted rocks. Pliny in the 1st century mentions radishes up to 3kg in size (clearly not cut out for salads!) in his writing and there are records of European herbalists referring to – wait for it – 45 kg radishes! Radishes appeared on these shores in the mid 16th century not long before the Spaniards introduced the humble radish to the U.S., where Florida is now the centre of the radish universe over there. In 1633, there is reference to radishes being eaten in sauces to ‘procure appetite‘ and also eaten ‘raw with bread‘. This is such a good way to eat them still! The small young spring radish, with its slightly hot taste – due to a glucoside substance within, similar to that in the related mustard plant – is wonderful when held by the green stalk, rubbed in a little butter then dipped in a little salt and eaten with a slice of good buttered bread.

And of course Spring is also a happy time to indulge in scallops. These chaps are unusual in the mollusc world as they do not crawl or burrow – instead they have a highly developed adductor muscle which allows them to propel themselves along by opening and closing their shells. Indeed the Japanese name for them means ‘full-sail fish.’ Interesting eh? And of course , they are very tasty!

I wanted to bring you a recipe that includes all the ingredients hinted at in Bonnie Lalley’s new painting and what could be better than

Seared Scallops with Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes!

I came across this dish a few years ago in an American cookbook I borrowed from a friend. I wrote it down and had forgotten all about it until I set eyes on this Lalley masterpiece!

It is simple and tasty and jam packed full of Spring.

For the salad:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs sherry vinegar
1 tspn Dijon mustard
1 small bunch rocket or watercress
1 good handful of small pea shoots
2 very small fresh beetroots, peeled and sliced very thinly

For the peas, radishes and scallops:

8oz sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 bunch radishes, trimmed
Unsalted butter
1 tbs water
80 gm scallops per person approx
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
Sea salt and black pepper

Ok – first make the salad: In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the rocket, pea shoots and beetroots slices but do not toss to coat. Patience! Set aside.

Prepare the peas and radishes: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add peas, and blanch for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and set aside. Blanch radishes for 2 minutes, and add to the sugar snap peas. Melt a good knob of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon water, the peas, and radishes. Cook until water evaporates and butter coats vegetables, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Next cook the scallops. Heat a large nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Season scallops with a little salt. Sear the scallops until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to keep warm and grind over some black pepper. To the hot pan, add another knob of butter and the orange zest and juice. Cook until butter is melted and flavours are combined, about 1 minute. Pour sauce over scallops.
Now toss the salad – you waited patiently hopefully! Arrange scallops, salad, and sautéed veg on plates and serve to warm applause!

Full sail for a trio of delights – radishes, peas and scallops!

Smoked Mackerel Makes a Magical Salad

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Smoked Mackerel Makes a Magical Salad

Lunch today was matching the mood of the day – a hint of sun, a waft of smoke from a spring bonfire and a spread of colours that exude April at its best. It is simple and it is filling for a light lunch. And its textures are a delight for fishy folk everywhere and possibly even for a few who are not! For me, the magic is in the pairing of the smoked mackerel from Cornwall with a vinaigrette. It works on all levels.

For 4

4 smoked mackerel fillets torn into several pieces
4 radishes thinly sliced
4 sweet mini peppers finely sliced
4 spring onions sliced
Salad leaves of your choice – I used rocket, lamb’s lettuce and mizuna – a good handful per person
8 baby plums quartered

For the vinaigrette

100 ml olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsps of Dijon mustard
A little sea salt and black pepper

All you need to do is make up 4 bowls – add enough salad leaves to each, plus the mackerel, tomatoes, radishes and spring onions. Toss gently.

Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together and swirl over each of the bowls.

Serve with a seriously good crusty bread.

You could, as ever in the best Alfredo’s tradition, twiddle with this recipe, adding other salad ingredients that you have in, or even for a bit of bite, a sliced, deseeded red chilli.

But this was a fine lunch as it was – try it. Let me know if you like it!

Radish fetish….

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Radish fetish....

Catching up on myself here…been a silly busy week, so much so that i have barely been able to lift glass to lips before I have nodded off some nights. So…before tonight’s proper post – i.e. what I have just eaten..here is a look back at food I have prepared since my last post – though to be honest Monday and Tuesday slipped into the vortex of knackerdness so nothing was cooked – I think I had a takeaway on Monday night ..and last night I just nibbled as I got in so late. But I do remember Sunday and I do remember getting intimate with a delightful bowl of radishes. They simply glimmered and shone as I put them in a dish with a silky balsamic cream glaze and simply picked at them accompanied by an over friendly white wine. I then roasted an organic chicken stuffed with butter and greek basil and garlic. I served this with baby pak choi steamed lightly, very very lightly…and tomatoes pan fried in garlic and rosemary. I poured over a little of the jus too… and if the meal had been a woman and I was single I would have asked it to marry me, it was that fine.

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Then, just because it was one of those days, I pan fried some cheeky plums in butter and muscovado sugar and for the last two minutes I drizzled over more than a fair share of damson liqueur.

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It was this side of ambrosia…..a very delightful meal…..am just listening to Lady Gaga in the background and she is singing that heart-stoppingly beautiful song, Edge of Glory…sort of described how I felt during that meal.

Pick and mix salad lunch…

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Pick and mix salad lunch...

Healthy mode today – my wife recuperating from an op so I decided to go for a big salad with cold meats and anchovies on the side. Managed to source some superb Pane Pugliese on my shopping travels this morning – toasted and drizzled with olive oil it was a fine partner to the affair, I served mortadella, serrano ham, two varieties of Italian salami and some superb cold rare beef left over from yesterday.

The salad plate was a pick and mix – lettuce and cucumber in the centre, and around it, vine tomatoes and basil, radishes, fennel sliced in lemon juice, French salad onions finely sliced – then I drizzled over my own échalotes vinaigrette – 5 tbsps sunflower oil, 2 tbsps white wine vinegar – 1 tbsp dijon mustard and 2 small échalotes finely chopped and a dash of black pepper and rock salt to taste. Pop it all in a small jar with a lid and shake like there is no tomorrow.

Surprising how filling it all was – and it was lovely spending quality time with my family at the table at lunch time.