It’s been such a lovely, truly summery day that I decided some fish for supper would be perfect. I eat fish all year round but there’s something wonderful about lightly cooked fish served simply that is reminiscent of summer holidays on the Mediterranean, fish caught from the sea and almost straight into a pan or onto a griddle and served with just a squeeze of lemon juice. Well, this wasn’t the Med but Twickenham; no sea but The Thames. But very fortunately for me a fantastic fishmongers, Sandy’s, that’s been attracting praise and customers from far afield for almost 40 years and is only a 5-10 minute walk away from my house. When I was there the other day I spied some gorgeous scallops and thought I must go back soon for some. I really love scallops and often choose them in a restaurant so I’m not quite sure why I rarely cook them. My dad used to cook them a lot. He regularly went to Billingsgate Fish Market on a Saturday morning and would cook up scallops, quickly fried in a pan with just a little oil and some sliced bacon, for an incredibly simple but completely wonderful lunch. I didn’t want to cook them with bacon but use them with the rest of a packet of lovely linguine al nero di sepia – linguine with squid ink – that I bought in Sapori TW1 a few weeks ago. It’s wonderful pasta. It was quite expensive but definitely worth the extra.
I had some baby plum tomatoes that I thought would make a great fresh tomato sauce to mix into the pasta. I gently fried 1 sliced shallot in some extra virgin olive oil and added a handful of chopped tomatoes once the shallot had started softening. When the tomatoes were cooking down, I added a good glug of prosecco. Prosecco because I had some open but white wine would do nicely. I just wanted to make it more of a a sauce. I let it all bubble away so some of the wine evaporated and the sauce thickened. I added a little bit of chopped fresh parsley and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The pasta only needed a couple of minutes cooking in a large pot of boiling, salted water. I drained it and added it to the tomato sauce.
The scallops need to be cooked at the last minute and take only 3-4 minutes. They smelled delicious even before cooking: I could smell their sweet taste of the sea.
I coated them in a little olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. I heated a pan with just a smear of oil (I used a pastry brush so it really was just a smear) until hot, then added the scallops. Cook for just a couple of minutes and when the underside is nicely browned, flip over and cook the other side.
You want to cook them quickly and they should be slightly undercooked in the middle so they remain soft and sweet. They can be easily overcooked and then become rubbery and not nearly so nice. I piled some of the pasta and tomato mix in the middle of a warm plate and then put the scallops round the edge.
It was all wonderful and went so well together: the delicious pasta with its sauce and the sweet, gorgeous scallops, still slightly underdone in the middle so deliciously soft with that lovely caramelised edge.
I’ve started growing tubs of salad leaves in my garden – grown in organic, non-peat potting mix.
Now all I have to do when I want a green salad is go outside my back door and pick it. You can’t get fresher – or more delicious! – than that.
It was even warm enough to eat it in the garden, which was perfect. Summer has arrived! I love the long days, the light lasting into late evening, and in the summer when I’m home for a meal alone, I like to take a post-prandial walk to the nearby Twickenham Green. This is a quintessentially English piece of common land. And where cricket is traditionally played at weekends and on summer evenings. I wasn’t disappointed today because two local cricket teams were out in force, a match still playing; families and supporters sitting near the clubhouse or on the grass watching.
Back home, I decided a little dessert was in order. Well, it is Saturday. I had some vanilla & gianduia ice cream I made recently. With a pot of espresso I soon had an affogato – a kind of mocha affogato with the chocolate – sitting before me back in my garden.
Just pour the hot espresso over the ice cream – and there you are! One of the most wonderful and simple desserts I know. What a perfect summer meal: simple, light and very very delicious.