Mains

Scallops with white beans, sage and speck

Serves 4

In our garden we grow several different varieties of sage – a very pretty, limey-green variety; purple sage, which is almost the colour of a very fresh bruise, and my favourite, which has a large, furry, mossy-green leaf. I love the smell of sage: damp, musty and warm.

20 scallops (ask your fishmonger for hand-dived British scallops)
250g/8oz cooked white beans (such as cannellini)
8 slices of speck
1 dried red chilli
8 sage leaves, torn up
30ml/1fl oz extra virgin olive oil, plus10ml/ fl oz more oil for the pan
juice of half a lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a handful of salad leaves (I have used mache from our garden)
medium bunch of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the beans until just tender. Drain, and while still warm, dress with olive oil, lemon juice, dried chilli, salt and half the sage leaves.

Place a non-stick pan over a medium heat, and add the oil. If your pan is small, you will need to cook the scallops in 2 batches. It is important not to overcrowd the pan, as the scallops will then stew rather than turning a lovely golden colour.

Season the scallops and cook undisturbed for 1 minute, then turn and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and squeeze over a little lemon juice and add the remaining sage. Then divide the salad leaves among the 4 plates.

Spoon the warm beans over the leaves, arrange the speck on top and finish with the scallops.

I like to drizzle over a little extra, really good quality olive oil and a large squeeze of lemon juice. The intensely sweet flavour of the scallops with the smokiness of the speck and sage makes for a very satisfying dish. It needs to be served piping hot. But you may prefer it just the way it is.

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