Thursday, April 30, 2009

Artichoke Soup (or, Things to Do with Scallops)

In an impulse of curiosity, desiring to widen the culinary horizons, I purchased a pack of Jerusalem artichokes from Sainsbury’s. I think I last ate these at least ten years ago.

I also thought they were a good credit crunch option.

I consulted my recipe books. I hit gold in Simon Hopkinson’s “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”: Scallop and Artichoke Soup.

Now, scallops are definitely not credit crunch material - however, the project suddenly developed into a treat to boost the animal spirits in a recession! ;-)

Scallops would feature in my top three edible favourites; I would choose them as my last meal. I don’t think they are available in South Africa - the first time I ate a scallop was on a visit to my cousins in Vancouver. Instant heaven; the highlight of the trip!

Since then, I have eaten them whenever and wherever:from the deeply luxurious and classic French Scallops au gratin at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle Restaurant to the new Brit classic from Kensington Place, Grilled Scallops with Pea purée and mint vinaigrette.

Nigel Slater has a recipe where you wrap the individual scallops in bacon strips, dust down with parmesan shavings and grill. Yum!

But recently my fave scallop recipe has been Nigella Lawson’s Scallops and chorizo from Nigella Express - this counts as so fast and simple it’s hardly a recipe! - but soooo spectacularly delicious. Just chuck some chorizo slices in a pan, fry to release the oils, chuck the scallops in until cooked (timing is all; don’t over fry - literally a couple of minutes; just until the scallops are opaque); then toss with lemon juice and chopped parsley.

The salty, meaty chewiness of the chorizo sets off the subtle smooth sweetness of the scallops; and the lemon and parsely take the edge off the richness of the dish. Possibly this is my last meal request, and it’s so fast I might be able to have it twice in one sitting!

Back to Simon Hopkinson’s soup recipe. I don’t think you can go wrong with scallops. Ok, maybe not with chocolate.

The artichoke soup recipe trends in the opposite direction to Nigel’s and Nigella’s - instead of contrast it works on complementaries: piling one kind of semi-savoury sweetness on another.

The artichokes have a subtle, rich, complex flavour of their own. The soup is your classic French butter, milk and cream concoction (enriched with fish stock, onion, bay leaf and thyme). The artichokes are blended and strained to velvety smoothness and then the poached scallops are added. Parsley and croutons for garnish. Fab.U.Lous.

Maybe my last meal could be the artichoke soup to start and the chorizo and scallops for the main course?

No comments: