Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scallopalooza (aka Xmas in London)

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Happy new year dear readers, I am sorry for my lack of posting but work and life got a little insane the last few weeks.

This was my first Xmas living away from Oz. Instead of being surrounded by my family drinking and eating ridiculous amounts of seafood in my parents backyard - surrounded by flies, rainbow lorikeets and magpies, we were holed up in Woolwich Arsenal with our growing London Family - literally growing, as Ruth and Chris announced their impending parenthood to us over Veuve on arrival at the house (confirming my suspicions that Ruth's aversion to alcohol was not antibiotic related as she had been claiming for a month!)

The plan for this first Xmas, was a staggered sharing of cooking duties. I had prepared he canap├ęs, starters and deserts, whilst Chris had prepared the main (which will be his/Ruth's story to tell!)

I had pre-ordered my seafood in early November for delivery on Xmas Eve from the team at Fish For Thought in Cornwall - it was delivered on time, well packed in a thermal box with enough ice to sink the Titanic! I had a combination of comestibles - live oysters and scallops, fresh fish in the form of filleted salmon and a couple of sea bass, frozen prawns and tuna, and a slab of smoked salmon.

Waiting on the table when our loved ones arrived was a platter of fresh blinis topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and lemon juice and a cracking of fresh pepper, and champagne (of course).

Now in true Antipodean style, Xmas isnt Xmas without lots of seafood....so our starter was actually a series of three. Scallopalooza was a progression of fresh Cornish handdived scallops.

First up, we had the grill pan fired on the stove, into which I tossed some thinly sliced spanish chorizo that I had picked up from Borough Market, once the lovely oils had started to leach into the pan, I added the scallop and basted it with the juices while the quickly seared them off on both sides. I then returned it to the shell and drizzled over the oil, and tossed a few sliced spring onions for Xmas Color.

Round Two, and I felt the need to leave the European shores and trip on over to Asia. Xmas eve saw me doing lots of last minute foodie shopping, and one of me favorite places in London is SeeWoo in Greenwich - a HUGE Chinese supermarket that caters to the restaurant community but welcomes casual shoppers with open arms and empty bellies.

Back to the food....round two saw the scallops being braised briefly in Chinese XO sauce. My Wiki-fu explains XO as the following "The name XO sauce comes from fine XO (extra-old) cognac, which is a popular Western liquor in Hong Kong and considered by many to be a chic product there. In addition the term XO is often used in the popular culture of Hong Kong to denote high quality, prestige, and luxury. In fact, XO sauce has been marketed in the same manner as the French liquor, using packaging of similar colour schemes......Developed in the 1980s in Hong Kong for Cantonese cuisine, it is made of roughly chopped dried seafoods including scallops, dried fish, and shrimp and cooked with chili peppers, onions, garlic, and oil."  I served these back in the shell top with thinly sliced radish for crunch and a few coriander leaves for fragrance.

The final round was supposed to have been grilled, but by this stage, Chris' mains were in the oven so I had to improvise. I decided to stay on Asian shores and grabbed down my wok and bamboo steamer. While the water came to the boil, I grated some ginger and garlic directly onto the scallops, drizzled on a bit of sake and mirin then whacked everything into the steamer and promptly forgot about them for a bit. A glass of bubbles later, I wandered back over and they were perfectly cooked. To serve, I lifted them onto a plate carefully to avoid loosing any juices, and added a couple of drops of sesame oil and a sprinkling of spring onions.

Personally - whilst they all tasted brilliant, I liked number three the best!

After this we moved onto Chris' main - totally delicious and juicy guinea fowl which was glorious. The pomegranates burst in my mouth like little happy bombs, and the gravy was lush!

We served this with duck fat roasted potatoes - crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so naughty they were perfect.

Leftovers the next day made for an awesome hash fryup by the way!!

Somehow we made room for desert. Again, I went overboard and made two! Part one was the Boozy Xmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce, and the second, by request from the Hussyband, was another of Nan's recipes, a Rum Pie. The brandy sauce and rum pie recipes will have to wait for another rainy day though - but I can assure you dear reader, they are worth the wait!