A-scallops-yse Now

So it was quite a busy Monday morning at Stately Prick Manor. Mrs Prick put in a 5:30am wake-up call and was out the door not long after, swooping off in a Silver Service towards targets unknown with a big box of documents and LTC Kilgore’s thousand-yard stare: in my imagination, she had the driver crank up Ride of the Valkyries a couple hundred metres from her destination, given the nature of her mission as I’d been elliptically given to understand it. Then it was kids, breakfast, cleaning, fish markets, and cooking – all before 10am. Why? It’s a long story that I can’t tell just yet, but folk were coming by the house to check out the place and, more specifically, see how the Prick is on the pans. The brief was for something quick with as much do-ahead as possible done before show-time.

Thus scallops, in fact some lovely Queensland numbers – though why doesn’t anyone sell these lovely bi-valves in their full shells, even at the fish markets? I’d happily do the extra work of cleaning the things in exchange for size and freshness – wrapped up with a bit of jamon serrano picked up from the lovely gents at Blackwattle Deli and finished with a bit of cauliflower and a zingy dressing in a great recipe inspired by Andrew McConnell of Cumulus Inc and Cutler & Co fame. I don’t do a lot of cooking-blogging here, though that was the original impetus behind my getting into the game, but this is one of the greatest little dinner party starters I’ve come across.

First up: get a cauliflower puree going. Half a head in a pan, simmer with milk, and be careful it doesn’t boil over: it’s a bitch to clean otherwise. While this starts, prepare your relish. Soak some raisins, about a tablespoon, in warm water for about ten minutes. Drain and chop to a mushy consistency, and throw into a mortar and pestle in which you’ve already smashed first a clove of garlic and a bird’s eye chili with a dash of sea salt, and then some anchovy fillets (about four). Finish with a good squeeze of lemon and a glug of olive oil, and set aside.

Then, whiz the hell out of your cauliflower in a blender, holding back some liquid to add until you get the right consistency. Season with salt, white pepper, and if you have some, a few gratings of fresh horseradish (not the jarred stuff – save it for the bloodies). If like me you’re a bit of a molecular food geek and want a really stable puree, add a bit of xanthan gum as well. At this point, you’re largely done.

Finally, and do this as soon as you can before cooking as the salt in the ham will start to cook the delicate scallop flesh, wrap your scallops around the middle with the pork, fixing it with a toothpick (which will come out later). Use scissors to trim the excess; otherwise they won’t cook properly. Fire them off in a hot pan, about 30-45 seconds a side (remember, they’ll keep cooking after you take them off the heat), and plate up with a garnish of basil chiffonnade. In the Prick’s experience, people tend to like this:

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