Fishing: Reeling in compliments with scallops for two

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The Independent Online
REALLY, AT this point in the fishing calendar, we should be talking about putting your tackle away for the winter. Throwing away old nylon, oiling reels, checking rods and rings for damage and making them good. Looking over CO2 canisters on life jackets, tidying away flies, giving waders the once over for rips, washing nets and leaving them out to dry and freshen up in the cold night's air (which is brilliant for getting rid of pongs).

But we're not going to. Who needs such stressy thoughts just as Santa is filling up his sack? We all know that, like homework, tackle maintenance is best left until the last minute, just as Songs of Praise is coming on the telly. When you'll realise that the whole cupboard smells of fish slime, your reels won't wind because they're caked in dirt, your waders are rotten and your wife hates you because of all of the above. (I, of course, don't have that problem, but then I have none of the advantages of having a wife either.)

No, no dear gentle readers. On this Saturday before Christmas we're going to talk fishy food. A few weeks ago I went diving with a man called Christian, who is supreme chef of chefs at Bank and Fish. I stayed in the boat, but he dived down to 10 or so metres to harvest scallops. Then we brought them back and Christian and I (together this time) cooked them. And I know he will not mind if I pass on a bastardisation of the recipe for one of the things we made, for it was truly a) superb and b) easy as a fish-finger sandwich to make.

First, you need some scallops, about six will do between two people. Discard the coral/ roe/gonad whatever you choose to call it (the orangey pink bit) and slice the scallop horizontally, into as many thin slices as your kitchen knife will let you. Now lay the slices on a plate and sprinkle over some shards of fresh ginger (ginger bits, ale or marmalade will not do). Add some julienned french beans, then some salt and pepper just before cooking (not too long before as this will start "cooking" the scallops, salt does that).

In the meantime, you would have put on a pan of water to boil with some seaweed (just in case you have it but don't stress yourself out if you don't) in it. This adds nice flavour. You put the pan on simmer and put a plate on top of the pan, cover with the pan lid, and use the heat of the steam to cook the scallops. So using your best china for this is not a good idea. In about five to eight minutes the scallops will be cooked.

Did I mention that you need some wilted spinach? Well you do, and this you will have put in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Then you scoop the scallops off the steam plate and atop this spinach. Finely dice half a tomato and sprinkle on top. Now you will need a reduced cream sauce. This part Christian guarded quite closely but I know it involved some shallots, white wine, a bit of vinegar and cream. I'm sure Delia, the Bill Gates of the cookery world, will have a recipe for it in one of her books. You will have needed to make this before the scallops and then you just spoon it over. It's a really delicious and healthy dish. I guess even healthier if you leave off the sauce, which will save you having to swell Delia's coffers any further, too.

I will just finish on a potentially stressy subject: Christmas presents. In case you're still stuck what to buy a fisherman and you don't have the money to buy him a Hardy Smuggler, Sage rod or trip to some fancy foreign river that involves being flown in by a topless helicopter pilot, there are two good books I'd like to tell you about.

The first, Catch That Fish, by Peter Gathercole (David and Charles, pounds 16.99) is perfect for beginners and has lots of split-level pages that are fun. Then there's Trout and Salmon photographed by R Valentine Atkinson (Duncan Baird, pounds 25). This is a superb book and takes you round the best fishing spots worldwide, with essays by various fishing luminaries (I seem to be absent).

Merry Christmas. And don't forget to say no to the smoked salmon.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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