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Heroes in a half-shell: Skye Gyngell cooks with scallops

A sweet seafood delicacy hand-dived in British waters? What's not to love about scallops?

Sunday 29 August 2010 00:00 BST

Plump, sweet scallops are one of the most delicious things found in the seas around England. The scallops we cook in the restaurant come from Dorset – "hand-dived" and very fresh, they are a treat to eat.

Look for scallops that are hand-dived, as this is important – being dredged in large quantities by nets from the bottom of the ocean disturbs their equilibrium, and is bad for the environment.

Also, use fresh rather than frozen, because they taste so much better – when frozen, they become waterlogged, do not brown easily during cooking and tend to taste a little like cotton wool.

Cook in the hottest pan possible – preferably non-stick – no more than a minute on each side, so that their centre is just cooked through; overcooking causes them to become rubbery and unpalatable. Allow three per person as a starter or five as a main course. Serve while piping hot.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627,

Scallops with corn purée and chilli oil

Scallops and corn work well together. Corn is at its best right now, sweet and firm. Look for corn with the husks left on; the kernels should be plump and tight. This purée also works well with chicken, girolles and seafood – crab, prawns and clams.

Serves 4

For the corn purée
3 fresh corn cobs, husks removed
120ml/4fl oz water
11/2 tsp sugar
One dried chilli, crumbled
40g/1oz butter
50ml/2fl oz crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the kernels from the cobs. The easiest way to do this is to stand the cobs upright on a board and run a sharp knife down in sections. Put the kernels in a saucepan, pour over the water, add the dried chilli and the sugar. Place over a medium heat and cook until the corn is tender – this will take 20-25 minutes. Drain, discard the chilli and place in a food processor along with the butter. Purée until smooth. Remove from the machine and return to the saucepan, then add the crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper to taste and warm through again just before serving.

For the chilli oil

1 red chilli
80ml/3fl oz olive oil
A pinch of salt

Slice the chilli in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Chop the chilli as finely as possible and place in a bowl, pour over the olive oil, add the salt and stir well to combine.

For the scallops

1/2 tbsp olive oil
20 scallops
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A squeeze or two of lime juice

Place a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the olive oil and allow the pan to become really hot. Season the scallops with the salt and pepper and place them in the frying pan. Make sure they are not too close together as they will steam rather than brown. Cook for one minute on one side before turning and cooking on the underside for a further minute. While the scallops are cooking, gently reheat the corn. Remove the scallops from the heat and squeeze over the lime juice. Spoon the corn on to a plate and lay the scallops on top. Spoon over the chilli oil and serve.

Scallops with chickpeas and green sauce

This is almost like a salad. The chickpeas are served at room temperature, while the fresh and vibrant green sauce lifts the dish as a whole. Don't be tempted to leave it out, as the dish will lose all its life.

Serves 4

20 scallops
400g/13oz cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt

For the green sauce

3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp chopped mint
3 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
1 tsp red-wine vinegar
Sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
The juice of half a lemon

Place all the chopped herbs and the anchovies into a bowl. Add the vinegar and a little salt and stir well to combine. Pour over the olive oil and stir once again.

Place the chickpeas into a bowl. Add the vinegar, parsley and olive oil, and season with the salt. Squeeze over the lemon juice and stir together.

Cook the scallops as per the first recipe (left). Spoon the chickpeas on to a plate and lay the scallops on top. Pour over the green sauce and serve at once.

Roasted onion squash, chard and scallops

Onion squash is the first variety of squash of the year. It has a tender skin that does not need to be removed – its sweet depth works beautifully with the scallops.

Serves 4

1 onion squash
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for the pan
A pinch of fennel seed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 stalks of chard, leaves only
The juice of half a lemon
20 scallops

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.

Slice the onion squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then slice into one- inch chunks. Place into a roasting dish and drizzle over a tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle over the fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 25 minutes – the squash should be tender but not falling apart.

While the squash is cooking, boil a pot of well-salted water then plunge in the chard and cook for three minutes. Now drain, place both the chard and the squash into a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice. Add the rest of the olive oil and toss together to combine. Season to taste.

Cook the scallops as per the first recipe (above). Arrange the vegetables on to a plate and top with the cooked scallops. Serve at once.

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