May 1998

Topsham, Devon May 20, 1998 Enjoying the glorious early summer weather in Topsham, we've found time lately to get out on the river in our dinghy, to cycle to Dartmoor's fabulous Hound Tor by way of Moretonhampstead and back through the gorgeous Teign Valley, and to enjoy simply prepared, fresh foods outdoors in our river garden on windless, warm evenings.

At such times, nothing beats the freshest local fish and shellfish, prepared in the simplest manner. When I visited Gibson's Plaice in Magdalen Road, Exeter, the other day after the kid's swimming lessons, there was a tray of the fattest, freshest and most glistening scallops, at 70 p. each not cheap, but a real treat that was irresistable. Perfect to sear on the griddle and serve with a fresh and pungent tomato, avocado and cilantro salsa, the ingredients for which I picked up at the excellent greengrocer opposite.

We enjoyed this meal with our friend Jane after a glorious evening 'pootle' on the estuary, dodging the racing Devon yawls on our way down to the Nob and back. I promised to post the recipe, so here it is, Jane, John and Grace...


Griddle Seared Scallops with Tomato, Avocado and Cilantro Salsa

Scallops from our Devon coast are among the best in the world, meaty, sweet, and with a delicious orange coral that many consider the finest delicacy of all. If the scallops are still in their shells, then remove, clean and trim. If already cleaned, it is still worth trimming the tough foot of meat along one side and removing the coral to cook separately. Then slice the scallops horizontally into disks, three if they are thick enough, otherwise in two. This recipe is sufficient for two as a main course or four as a starter.

12 large scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil plus generous squeeze of lime juice

Romaine lettuce leaves, cleaned, sufficient to make a bed on the plates

For the salsa

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped

2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 small red pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Large handful of cilantro (coriander), finely chopped

4 tablespoons (or to taste) pickled jalapeño peppers, finely chopped

4 tablespoons juice from the pickled jalapeños

Juice of two limes

About 6 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

First prepare the salsa: combine all the salsa ingredients, mix well, then leave to chill in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours during which time the flavours combine and ripen. Marinade the prepared scallops in the olive oil and lime juice. When ready to eat, heat a griddle or a large skillet to medium hot. Lay the scallops in the skillet in a single layer, then turn almost immediately: they will cook in no more than a minute. Cook all the scallops in this manner, then quickly add the coral to the griddle and cook for about 15 seconds a side only. Meanwhile, make a bed of romaine lettuce on each plate, pile generously with the salsa, then top with the griddle-seared scallops. Simple and exquisitely delicious! This salsa, incidentally, is excellent with other foods too, including char-grilled chicken breast or simply barbequed squid.

Wine suggestion: This simple and delicious seafeast is beautifully partnered with a bottle of Casal di Serra Verdicchio by Umani Ronchi, made from grapes grown in the Adriatic hills above Ancona, the lush, almost tropical fruit a wonderful match with the sweetness of the scallops and the spice of the salsa.


copyright © Marc & Kim Millon 2000

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