Scallops & pea puree
Last week I was in the tea room at work, lunch in one hand, looking over the various gossip magazine that we so enjoy...Womans Day, New Idea, Take Five..... I've become quite a fan of these quality publications and look forward to sitting down to read of Brangelina's latest follies or which two-bit soapie starlet might be pregnant. You wouldn't think it of us serious, bun-wearing, glasses-toting librarians, would you?
Anyway, it was with quite some shock that I realised I had actually read every single magazine in the room already!! Plus the ones I'd supplied from my grandmother's spare bedroom. Like, oh god, how like, totally embarrassing.
So, it was with some relief that I found another magazine nearby. A newbie. One I hadn't seen yesterday, and probably wouldn't see the next day cos somebody would souvenir it for themselves (ahem, just like I did). It was an Australian foodie magazine called Delicious, apparently voted "the world's best food magazine". I am not very familiar with Delicious, having grown up a Gourmet Traveller girl, and now subscribe to Donna Hay, but once that subscription ends, I'm giving it the flick and switching to Delicious. This magazine really does it for me; lots of columns from celebrity chefs and TV cooks, both Aussie and international, great recipes, tips, info about new gadgets and excellent photography.
Anyway, I was flicking through enjoying myself at the winter recipes (oh no, it wasn't a current ed. We are talking tea room mags here!) and I found a section from Nigella - maybe this is why I like it so much? - about cooking for two. Geez, even when I'm not looking at Nigella, I get a Nigella recipe. For me that's testimony to how good she and her recipes are. These were quick after-work dinners to be made with the pressure off and to enjoy the cooking for what it is - just preparing good food to eat. She makes the very pertinent statement about the way that we treat cooking nowdays, that:
"People feel that cooking is something they do only when they have people over. How do you really learn to cook, or begin to enjoy it, if you have no practice in the everyday, and then have to pull together a drop-dead dinner for 10?"
Very true. I have to admit I'm far more comfortable cooking elaborate meals for myself and my family rather than ever creating something for company. I tend to freeze up in those situations, and try to avoid them.
One of the recipes she included was for pan-seared scallops with a garlic & rosemary infused pea puree. The photo looked lovely, I had all the ingredients at home, and I knew I'd be just cooking for myself that night - so I quietly dropped the magazine into my bag and crept from the room....
I used frozen scallops for this, as I had bought a bag from a great wholesale fishmonger nearby a few months ago. They have really cheap oysters too - about $7 for a dozen! I find the frozen scallops perfectly adequate, although maybe a tad salty. I'd certainly buy them again as they're a good thing to keep in the freezer for quick meals, or to whip up some little gorgeous thing.
I have to admit I didn't find this as quick as she portrayed it. It was just a tad tedious, especially making the infused oil, but all up the whole dish didn't take more than about 30-40 minutes. You don't have to do the oil this way - you could just add some garlic and butter to the peas, but this little touch made the meal taste like restaurant food. It brought something from the everyday up a notch to something really special. I recommend doing it. I also topped it with a splodge of home-made pesto I'd also whipped up that night. A great touch! Because I made it just for me, I had enough leftovers for the next day. You can't imagine how much I was looking forward to lunch all through the next morning.
This is simple and so effective. The restaurant-tasting garlicky, herby pea puree, and the clean, salty scallops is a winner combo. It could be an elegant first course as part of a larger, more formal meal (I think it'd be perfect for a romantic dinner) or just a weeknight meal in itself. It's not a 15 minute, chuck everything in the wok, dinner on the table in 5, typical weeknight meal. It does require a bit more effort, but that small effort really pays off.
Read on for the recipe:
Scallops with pea puree
By Nigella Lawson, by way of Delicious magazine.
1 garlic clove, peeled
15cm sprig of fresh rosemary
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
4 cups (500g) frozen peas
6-8 scallops (I used about 15, but they were small)
1 tbl cornflour
Lemon wedges, to serve
Put the garlic, sprig of rosemary and olive oil into a small saucepan and heat gently over low heat for about 1-2 minutes until the oil starts to fizz and bubble. Turn off the heat and leave it to infuse.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, and cook the peas for a little longer than usual – about 5-6 minutes – then drain.
Tip the cooked peas into a good processor and add ¼ cup (60ml) of the infused oil. Process until peas are a pureed mush, season to taste, then return peas to the pan they were cooked in and cover with a lid to keep warm.
Slice the scallops in half through the middle, so you have 2 slim discs from each. Remove the rosemary sprig from the oil and pick off its leaves. Return the leaves to the oil. Heat the remaining tablespoon of the garlic & rosemary oil in a heavy frying pan over high heat.
Season the cornflour with salt and pepper, then dust the scallop halves briefly (this makes them crispy on the outside) before frying them in the oily pan. Cook the scallops for about 1 minute on each side until light golden.
Divide the pea puree between 2 plates or shallow bows, then add the hot scallops from the pan. Serve with lemon wedges.
Tagged with scallops