Sunday, 13 March 2011

Scallops with Chorizo

I've not had a moment to write this week, but then I haven't been cooking much: the SO is off at a conference so I spent a few days just eating up leftovers we had in the fridge. Wednesday, the night before he left, we went to a 'supper club' at the new independent cafe in Cambridge, Stickybeaks. A colleague from work invited me, and we had a lovely time: I highly recommend it to anyone in the Cambridge area. The format was perfect: fifteen people entered in dribs and drabs, took seats and glasses of wine and introduced themselves. When everyone was seated, we were given a little introduction to the meal plan of the evening: a very delightful Italian menu.

Then we watched as the major steps of preparation were performed for the starter and main meal: butternut squash risotto with taleggio, and Italian-sausage stuffed bomb courgettes. After we finished these - delicious! - we watched Lucy and Catherine prepare the fastest cake in the world. They put that in the oven, and then we were treated to Blue-Peter-style slices they'd cut minutes before. The cake was rich and wonderful, and I would have loved a strong cup of coffee and a little chaser - but it was a school night. At last I know where childless 30-40-somethings spend their time!

Thursday and Friday I have nothing to report - leftover pancakes, leftover gumbo. Today was different! Having at last cleaned the fridge of the last vestiges of last week, I set out to the market for this week's shop. I made sure to buy only half as much food as usual by bringing only half the normal-size bag. Otherwise I'm totally helpless when surrounded by all the fresh produce. It was a beautiful spring day and I was glad to be out. I did miss the SO though - especially when standing vacantly in the veg stall having my groceries weighed, taking a minute to realise that without my usual pack mule, I'd need to pack and carry the backpack myself!

Sometimes people say that it's hard to cook for one. I mostly agree with this sentiment - it's certainly hard to start cooking for one. You look at the empty kitchen, you think 'well, I'm not that hungry', then you eat beans on toast and feel depressed. I like to think about it differently. I like to look at that kitchen and see a place to experiment, time to try something I haven't tried before. If I mess it up... well, there's always beans on toast!

Tonight I cooked scallops for the first time, and they went rather well. I couldn't resist using chorizo as the main addition as I find the smoky-sour flavour is just so perfect with seafood. The accompaniments were a salad that's become a staple in our family since we first made it a few Christmases ago, and some pumpkin bread I invented today. Scallops were not nearly as intimidating as I thought. The same rules apply to them as to almost any seafood: buy fresh, cook on the day, don't overcook, and serve immediately. And of course, enjoy eating more of them than you'd ever get in a restaurant, for a much lower price!


  • 6 scallops per person, or 2 for a starter (with or without coral is fine)
  • Two 5mm slices of chorizo per person, or 0.5 for a starter
  • 3 large lettuce leaves per person, or 1 for a starter (NOT iceberg)
  • vegetable oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • very good olive oil

Wash the scallops carefully, removing any grit or goo, but keeping the coral attached if yours came with. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides. Chop the chorizo slices into small pieces. Put a splash of vegetable oil in a heavy-based stainless steel frying pan or cast iron skillet, and put over a moderate heat. Toss in the chorizo and allow them to sweat out some of their oil, and fry until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Wash the lettuce leaves and place one on each plate.

Turn the heat up to maximum, and put the scallops in the pan. If you're cooking a large quantity, don't overcrowd the pan, as this will reduce its temperature and cause the scallops to sweat instead of sear. Fry the scallops for one minute and then turn over. The cooked surface should be have a dark golden brown ring on it and be seared shut. Cook on the other side for a further minute, then remove and place on the lettuce leaves on each plate. Scatter with chorizo pieces, splash with 1 tsp of balsamic per plate, and drizzle over your best olive oil.

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