Pengelly's, the finest day-caught fish and shellfish, in Looe & Liskeard, Cornwall
Pan-fried scallops with crispy pancetta and a pea puree
Scallops are a delicious starter for any dinner party, and they're genuinely easy to cook and prepare. This recipe combines the sweetness of the scallops with the smoky earthiness of crisp pancetta, all counterpointed with the freshness of a pea and mint puree.
12 scallops, with coral, per person.
24 strips of pancetta (Italian smoked bacon). If pancetta is unavailable, you can substitute thin-cut smoked streaky bacon instead.
100g fresh peas, shelled. (Frozen petit pois will work as well.)
2 or 3 mint leaves
3 tablespoons of fresh single cream
Unsalted butter and olive oil for frying.
Fine sea salt, fresh black pepper, and a pinch of sugar for seasoning.
A splash of dry white wine
The beauty of this dish is that almost everything can be prepared in advance, leaving just a few minutes of frying and plating up before serving.
Preparing the scallops.
Wash your scallops under the cold tap, and remove any excess pieces of membrane around the meat. Keep the coral (the orange portion) attached to the scallop meat, as this is the sweetest part of the shellfish. Dry the scallops using kitchen roll, and reserve in the fridge until ready to cook.
Preparing the pea puree.
Place your peas into a pot of boiling water. Add a pinch of salt for seasoning, and cook for a few minutes until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas in a sieve, and add them to a food processor bowl.
Roughly chop the mint leaves, and add to the peas.
Season this mixture with a pinch of salt and a pinch of white sugar. Add the cream and process the mixture until it is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary... it should taste fresh and slightly sweet, with a fizzle of mint in the background.
Allow to cool and reserve in the fridge until later.
Preparing the pancetta.
Cook the pancetta just prior to cooking the scallops. Take a dry, non-stick frying pan, and warm it through on a medium heat. Add the strips of pancetta (it will cook in its own fats), and allow them to become crispy (but not burned) turning once. When cooked, remove the pancetta to a separate plate, and reserve the fat in the pan.
Cooking the scallops
At this stage, you are only a few minutes away from serving, so you will need to set out plates and get ready to plate up the dish.
Add a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to the pan you used to cook the pancetta, and return to a medium heat. While it's warming up, season the scallops with a little sea salt and fresh pepper.
Place the scallops one by one into the pan. They should immediately start to sizzle. As they cook, use a spoon to trickle pan juices over the top of the scallops - this helps to seal them and keep them juicy.
TOP TIP - if you squeeze the scallop gently with a fork before cooking, you will notice that they are soft and pliable. A perfectly cooked scallop will have just a little give when you squeeze it, and an over-cooked one will barely give at all. So stop cooking when the scallop is opaque the whole way through, with a nice golden colour on both sides, and just a little softness when you squeeze them.
After 90 seconds to two minutes, gently turn the scallops with two forks. The cooked side should be beautifully golden. Continue to baste the scallops with the pan juices for another minute or two, or until the white meat is no longer slightly translucent, and the scallop still has a slight give when pressed with a fork.
When the scallops are just about finished, turn the heat up and add a splash of white wine to the pan and a squeeze of lemon across each of the scallops. After a few moments the wine will reduce. Turn off the heat.
To serve, blip the pea puree in a microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle the puree along the centre of your plate, and immediately place three scallops on top of the puree. Drizzle the scallops with some of the pan juice, and simply lie the crispy pancetta across each of them. Serve immediately.