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!

Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch…

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Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch...

Busy Saturday doing lots of little really…so needed a light lunch that would tidy us over until supper – friends coming round so afternoon shopping trip to Salisbury was on the cards. Had a gorgeous ciabatta loaf which I sliced and grilled lightly on one side, then rubbed with babe Spanish tomatoes split in half – the shells I then pushed into each slice. I topped them with some sexy serrano ham, slivers of salty, sweet and tangy parmesan. Then a little rocket, some more olive oil and voila – a simple, yet just right lunch – I adore rocket – it just adds that pepperiness to such dishes and makes them even more appealing.

Monday magic… of the tomato variety…..

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Monday magic... of the tomato variety.....

Tonight was one of those nights when an experiment worked, and worked so well, I wanted to freeze time. The flavours were simply exquisite. I used one of my favourite base dishes of pan fried plum toms with rosemary and cream…and added to it. You know by now, well I know that you know that I know, that I like to fiddle with recipes…so here we fiddly well go!

For 4 folk who may have been working in the garden all day…

Two decent punnets of baby plum tomatoes – mine were from Spain and as sweet as a smile from Marilyn Monroe.
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
250 ml of single cream
5 or 6 slices of serrano ham – or prosciutto would be fine
1 slice of smoked bacon
A good handful or more of baby spinach and rocket, chopped
Black pepper
Olive oil

400 gm of pasta – rigatoni or fusilli

Pop a good tablespoon or two of oil in a frying pan. Heat and then add the tomatoes. Add the garlic after a minute or so, then chop off with scissors quite a lot of rosemary into the pan and then add the sprigs too.

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Let them cook for about 15 minutes or so on a low heat until they give when pressed with a spoon. Flatten them a little with a slotted spoon – but don’t break them open too much.

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In a second pan, fry the smoked bacon finely chopped. When cooked, add in the serrano ham chopped and allow to crisp a little.

Cook the pasta – I always use rigatoni for this.

Add the bacon and ham to the tomato mixture, then add the cream. Heat gently and after two or three minutes, add in the spinach and rocket. Grind over some black pepper. Stir for about 5 minutes until it wilts into the cream sauce.

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Drain the pasta and then pop a portion into each of the 4 bowls – then spoon over the tomato mixture.

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I cannot express how wonderfully dreamy and gorgeous this dish is. It is…believe me…….no……don’t….make it for yourself!

I had been gardening all day today trying, as I mentioned in the last post, to get it tidied before this weekend’s belated birthday celebrations for my son and daughter. In the process, I discovered that there were lots of blackberries lurking wistfully below my sage plants and rosemary bushes. So, I picked them! And happily my rhubarb had coped with my absence and soldiered on, producing several fine stems which I duly cut…but with love. I poached the chopped rhubarb lightly and then popped them and the blackberries in a low gratin dish. I knocked up a crumble mix using plain flour, porridge oats, some crushed pecans, pumpkin seeds, butter and brown sugar. The result was stultifyngly superb though I say it myself!

I think part of the secret of the crispy buttery top was cooking it for 40 minutes on 180 degrees then switching the oven off, removing the crumble and after about 10 minutes returning it to the cooling oven whilst we ate the main course.

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Anyway it was fruitastic and even better because it all cane from our garden. I drank a cold pinot noir from Alsace whilst cooking, and a lovely bottle of shiraz with the meal itself. I listened to Bob Marley on the record player, then the Pet Shop Boys ‘Disco’. I felt good… and I felt as if I was back where I belonged……in my kitchen!

And here was the mellow aftermath in Alfredo’s after our meal…my home from home…

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Moz and Chorizo Salad…

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Moz and Chorizo Salad...

Ok…I have been rather nastily unwell the last few days – am presently sitting up in bed with a cough that could cut rocks in two. At least my temperature seems to be almost back to normal – but I am plum tuckered! This blog however needs me…sorry..I need this blog to keep me sane…so apologies that this is only brief – tis a starter I did last Wednesday and was well received. I wanted to do something different with my friend mozzarella and so on a bed of spinach, beetroot, lambs lettuce and rocket I tore up some moz and draped it over the greenery on each plate. I then pan fried some chorizo cut into small cubes and spooned it over – I also drizzled on some of that wonderful reddish oil it creates. I then swirled some balsamic sauce around the leaves. The flavours were sublime. You could also, I reckon, add some shavings of parmesan… but that maybe gilding the lily. Enjoy your weekend everyone – hopefully I will be up and cooking soon! I miss my kitchen!

Back Seat Chicken and Rocket Risotto…

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Back Seat Chicken and Rocket Risotto...

I came home late this evening…tired and aching….and I took a back seat…my wife had decided to take over the cooking for a night. I sat in the garden, listening to the mid evening bird song, glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in hand and closed my eyes. When I came in, there was supper! I do all the cooking normally, but now and then, Jane does me her speciality – a risotto. I cook them too…but she does them better. We divide the labour well in our house and she is happy that I do all the cooking and food shopping – but it is bliss when she takes over and cooks one of her specials.

Ingredients:
1 onion / 75 gm unsalted butter / 400 gm arborio risotto rice / 2 chicken thighs cooked, skinned and meat stripped off / 1.2 litres of chicken stock brought to a simmer and kept there / 2 handfuls of rocket, roughly chopped / 2 tsps crème fraîche / glass of a good white wine / 50 gm parmesan, grated / black pepper

Fry onions in half the butter til soft. Add rice and toast it well til it is sizzling and opaque. Then add the wine and boil for a minute to evaporate the alcohol. Start to add the stock. A ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and making sure the rice absorbs all the liquid before adding any more. The mixture will gradually become smoother and creamier. After 15 minutes or so, when the risotto is ready, add the chicken. Stir round for another 5 minutes. The rice should be still a little firm to the bite. Now stir in the rest of the butter, the rocket, crème fraîche and the parmesan. Add a little black pepper to taste.
Take off the heat and leave to rest for two minutes.

Serve to a hungry and waiting audience who will thank you lots and lots for cooking it for them!! Grazie bella!