The second installment of the birthday fishy feast was an even more extravagant luxury – scallops! We ventured all the way to the South Devon for a stint of fossil hunting on the Jurassic coast + seafood!
After the obligatory beer in Beer with my folks, we headed down to fish shop on the pebbly beach, where much of the catch is landed. A lot of the fish and mussels were identical to what our local fishmonger supplies – well, it is only a couple of hours drive away – bar the scallops!
The southern shoreline is bounded by the Atlantic rather than the murky Bristol Channel, and we were faced with an abundance of plump hand-dived scallops looking up at me whispering “Buy me, buy me.” It had to be done – thanks mum for my birthday treat!
I haven’t yet written a blog post about Tortelli di zucca, a speciality of Mantova, the medieval Northern Italian town that was panda-in-crimes old stomping ground. Though it did feature in a absurdly baroque short story I once wrote:
Mostarda di Mantova was the house speciality, an excellent companion to all manner of boiled meats and cheeses. On breaking the seal, his nasal passages smarted as pungent fumes seeped from the agrodolce candied fruit. “The secret is to carve the quince finely and liberally sprinkle sugar atop the slices, before macerating for two days.” The syrupy secretion is reduced by vigorous boiling and decanted over the fruit to permeate for another twenty-four hours, before the precious drops of mustard essence are swirled in.”
It was a bold amalgamation of flavours. The acerbic piquancy clashing with the sweetened nuances of crushed almond macaroons and pumpkin, mediated by salty Grana Padano and the extravagance of spiced nutmeg. Tortelli are the essence of Renaissance indulgence.
I’m rather partial to my scallops wrapped in Parma ham with crispy sage leaves and butternut squash puree, and as we had a jar of mostarda, I thought why not try a Mantovan twist…
RECIPE: Capesante di zucca
a Mantovan twist on pan-fried scallops with butternut squash puree
Half a dozen scallops, the muscle separated from the roe
A knob of butter
Two slices of prosciutto
6 sage leaves
100g of butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
A grating of nutmeg
A sprinkling of salt and grinding of pepper
A splash of double cream
A handful of amaretti biscuits, crushed
Mostarda di Mantova, finely diced
Shavings of Grana
METHOD: Steam the butternut squash over a pan of boiling water for ten – fifteen minutes until tender. Puree by blitzing in a food processor or press the flesh through a sieve. Add a splash of double cream, a grating of nutmeg and season to taste.
Fry the prosciutto and sage leaves in a pan until crispy on a high heat. Remove and set aside. Add a knob of butter and when melted, add the scallops, seasoning them in the pan. Sear for one to two minutes, making sure not to move them, so they form a brown crust, before turning them over. Now add the orange roe – or corals – as they take less time to cook. The scallops should be opaque and just cooked through and the corals firm to the touch. It really only takes a three to four minutes on a high heat, depending on thickness and the heat of your pan – it should be nearly smoking.
Now for the plating up. Dollop a spoonful or quenelles of the puree on the plate and lay the scallop on top. Arrange the Mostarda, sage leaves and crumbled amaretti, shavings of Grana or Parmesan and break the crispy prosciutto into shards. Pour over the buttery pan juices and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and enjoy!