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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, February 09, 2006

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

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  • Wow. Now you've reminded me what I must do with the bag of fresh peas I have to pod. This is one of my favourite dished at Kensington Place in London. I'd always finish with baked Tamarillos - just sprinkle with sugar or yu could use honey - with vanilla ice cream

    By Blogger Ed, at 2/09/2006 06:16:00 pm  

  • Delicious is great! I subscribed when it first came out and had to stop when I realised how many copies I'd saved and couldn't bear to throw away - space reasons! I found that they did overuse their foodie celebrity of the moment concept. If, for whatever reason, you didn't like the style of Jamie or Nigella or Ainsley... you were stuck with him/her until the next one came along.

    By Blogger Belinda, at 2/09/2006 07:38:00 pm  

  • I received Gourmet Traveller and Delicious as Christmas subscriptions this year. I like both, but delicious really is more focused on recipes you can make as opposed as to ogle.

    Love the pea puree. Delicious.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/09/2006 09:42:00 pm  

  • Will watch for Delicious but your supper -- it's delicious enough for me!

    By Blogger Alanna Kellogg, at 2/10/2006 12:27:00 am  

  • Ed - Podding fresh peas - now that's dedication! Baked tamarillos sound very intruiging. Maybe I have to try that idea.

    Belinda - Yes, I kind of got that impression, cos this edition was full of Nigella, Neil Perry and Bill Granger...and of that three I only really like the first person!

    Sue - I completely agree. GT looks gorgeous, but I can't say I ever cooked a recipe from it ever. But the first copy of Delicious I have and I've market quite a few I want to try.

    AK - Thank you!

    By Blogger Niki, at 2/10/2006 12:33:00 am  

  • Hi Niki, I can't believe you've never read Delicious before. Glad you like it! As I'm reading it I always write down the page numbers and recipe titles that I want to try on a Post It note and stick it on the cover :)

    By Blogger Kelly, at 2/10/2006 11:26:00 am  

  • this sounds so good, just thinking about it makes me swoon in anticipation. this is definately on deck for this weekend-- thx!

    By Blogger joegirlfriday, at 2/11/2006 04:52:00 am  

  • Wow! We like anything with scallops.
    Will try this definitely.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2006 10:44:00 am  

  • Inspired by this I made a similar dish last night. J podded the peas - I was also making Dessert (!) - I boiled them, blended them with a splash of sherry viegar, salt and pepper and served with seared scallops. Delish. The dish I used to eat at KP somehow made a smoother pea puree. I'll have to find out how.

    By Blogger Ed, at 2/12/2006 12:33:00 pm  

  • Kelly - Yes, I can imagine also doing that in the future!

    Joegirl - I do hope you did make it! Send me a link if you did.

    gini & kuttan - I always forget how good scallops are, and when I try them am reminded that I should eat more of them

    Ed - The smooth puree also eluded me, which was a little disappointing. The photo in the magazine showed a lovely, velvety puree which my processor couldn't recreate, even with additional oil splashed in.
    Glad to know you were on 'dessert' duty! :-)

    By Blogger Niki, at 2/13/2006 04:18:00 pm  

  • Could I persuade you to pass on the details for your wholesale fishmonger?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/14/2006 03:57:00 pm  

  • Anon - Yep, sure. It's called Poseidon seafoods in Steane St, Fairfield - just off Darebin Rd. It's in an industrial area not far from the shoe and clothes outlets. They mainly supply restaurants and caterers but are also open to walkins from the public. Very friendly they are too, even when you walk in at 4.30 as they're hosing down the floors and locking up!

    By Blogger Niki, at 2/14/2006 06:45:00 pm  

  • You could always try running the puree through a chinois (though that'd mean buying a chinois) or you could add a bit of chicken stock maybe.

    Just on the odd seafood/peas combo they do a smoked salmon with green pea ice-cream at work which is nice, maybe I can suggest scallpos and get brownie points.

    By Blogger Anthony, at 2/17/2006 10:01:00 pm  

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