Cook the Book: Scallops with Pea Pur\u00e9e and Ham

[Photograph: Simon Wheeler]

I love the way that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's mind works. Pairing seared scallops with crisp chips of Serrano ham and a minty purée of peas is reason alone to invest in a copy of his latest cookbook, River Cottage Every Day.

Simple, beautiful, and and astonishingly easy to prepare, these Scallops with Pea Purée and Ham are a plate that you'll want to make over and over again until the last of the spring peas are gone. It's got "dinner party" written all over it—the sort of dish that elicits all sorts of oohs and aahs but doesn't require any sort of cheffy skills or serious time commitment in the kitchen.

The peas are blanched tender and whirred together with mint and a single clove of just browned garlic with a bit of cooking water and softened butter for creaminess. Once your purée is buzzed and ready to go, slices of ham are sizzled until crisp and scallops are seared in the rendered ham fat until browned on either side. Plating is just a matter of placing the ham, scallops, and pea purée on a plate and drizzling it with a bit of olive oil. The salty ham, sweetly browned scallop, and a fresh burst of pea and mint flavor in the purée are almost magical when eaten together—balanced, fresh, exciting—the kind of starter that does its job perfectly, a little, thrilling bite that primes you for the next course.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of River Cottage Every Day to give away this week.

Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Cook the Book: Scallops with Pea Purée and Ham

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About This Recipe

Yield:4 as a starter
Active time:40 minutes
Total time:40 minutes
Special equipment:a blender or food processor

Ingredients

  • For the pea purée:
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen baby peas
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Leaves from 1 large bunch of mint, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the scallops:
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil
  • 4 large, paper-thin slices serrano ham or prosciutto (or 8 thin cooked bacon slices)
  • 12 diver scallops, cleaned
  • A little extra-virgin olive or canola oil, to serve

Procedures

  1. 1

    First, make the pea purée: Cook the peas in boiling salted water until tender, then drain, reserving the cooking water, and empty the peas into a blender or food processor. Put the oil and garlic in a small pan and allow to sizzle gently for barely a minute until the garlic just begins to color. Quickly pour it into the blender with the peas. Add the butter, mint, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Blend to a purée, adding a little of the cooking liquid if necessary to give a consistency similar to that of coarse hummus. Taste and adjust the seasoning; keep warm.

  2. 2

    To cook the scallops, put a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Tear the ham into large shreds and add to the pan, turning the pieces over in the oil as soon as they start to crisp —this should take less than a minute. Transfer to a warm plate. Season the scallops, add them to the pan, and cook for about a minute, until golden brown underneath. Turn them over and cook for a minute on the other side.

  3. 3

    Immediately transfer the scallops to 4 warm plates, adding a few scraps of ham to each one. Put a good dollop of pea purée next to the scallops, drizzle with a little extra-virgin oil plus the juices from the scallop pan, and grind over some pepper. Serve right away.

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