Bella's scallop and red gurnard risotto

Topsham, Devon September 4, 2007 Guy and Claire are now settling in to their new life in Nottingham, and Bella returns to school tomorrow, so life is beginning to move on from the endless summer of 2007. Since it's her final day before school starts, we asked Bella what she wanted for her special 'last supper'.

"Michael Caines' crab risotto," she said without a moment's hesitation.

Michael had cooked this for Bella earlier in the year and we included the recipe in the spring/summer edition of the Caines Correspondent, the twice yearly publication that we put together with Michael. It's a stunning recipe, especially when cooked personally for her by one of Britain's leading and most talented chefs. Bella had been wanting me to make it for her all summer.

So here was my chance for glory. I went along to see David Kerley at The Fish Shed at Darts Farm this morning, but David wasn't there and there was no crab to be had. Not to worry, I picked up everything else I needed, confident that Derek Thorman, our mobile fishmonger who comes to Topsham on Tues, Thur, Fri and Sat, would have some of his own handpicked crab.

But disaster! Derek didn't have any crab either. "I'll have some on Saturday," he said. That's no good, Derek, we need it tonight, for Bella's last supper.

"What about some live scallops," he asked. He showed us a tray and they were real beauts, gathered just off Exmouth in Start Bay, fat and glistening.

"OK," I said, thinking about what I could do. "Now I need something to make a good rich fish stock."

"Red gurnard?" Derek suggested, "and I'll throw in some plaice frames."

Deal done, I stopped at Richard's the greengrocer for some fennel, basil and flat-leaved parsley to add to the fish stock, which is gently simmering away as I write this.

So here's what I'll do for Bella's last supper:

Bella's scallop and red gurnard risotto in the style of Michael Caines

Serves 4


A dozen scallops, cut out of the shells, cleaned and trimmed with roe separated from the white meat
2 red gurnard, filleted and pin-boned
2 bulbs of fennel
Handful of rocket
About a dozen basil leaves, finely chopped
Grated parmesan
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
250g cherry tomatoes
Fresh thyme or basil
Extra virgin olive oil

For the risotto
2 cups arborio rice
3 shallots, chopped
Olive oil
About 400ml fish stock made with the carcass of the red gurnard and the plaice frames, together with the fennel fronds, basil, and flat leaf parsley - none of us are fans of scallop roe, so we'll throw these in the stock pot too
1 garlic clove, cut in half and stem removed
Salt and pepper


Sun blushed cherry tomatoes

1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay onto a tray (sliced side up). Sprinkle with thyme and extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place into a pre-heated oven at 110 degree C and leave to dry slowly for 45 minutes.


1. Sweat the shallots and garlic in the olive oil until transparent and soft.
2. Add the rice and seal well. This is important. Keep stirring the rice around – it’s ready when it is too hot to touch comfortably, so keep feeling it.
3. Gradually add the fish stock a ladle at a time, stirring all the while. With risotto it’s important to keep things moving. Chop the fennel and add to the pot after 5 minutes or so.
4. As the liquid is absorbed into the rice, add a ladle more. Continue to cook for about18-20 minutes until the rice is cooked through but still has an al dente bite to it. Remove from the heat.
5. Add the grated parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, return to the heat and stir well to heat through. Adjust the seasoning.
6. Take off the heat, and stir in the mascarpone cheese, finely chopped basil, and sun blushed tomatoes.
7. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Season the red gurnard fillets and fry skin side down for about 2-3 minutes, then turn over and cook for a further minute. Divide into 4 pieces.
8. Cut the scallops in two horizontally and season with salt and white pepper. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and sear the scallops over a high heat for about a minute a side.
7. Serve family style by bringing the pan to the table. Dish the risotto into bowls or plates, top each serving with some rocket leaves, shavings of parmesan, and a final drizzle of oil, then lay the seared scallops and red gurnard fillets on top.

Thanks, Michael, I'm sure this will turn out just great, the perfect meal for Bella's last supper.

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