RECIPE – Hake and scallops with a red pepper and fennel purée and grilled aubergines

 

Last night, herself brought home glistening fresh hake and “some scallops, for a treat”. Four whacking great kings, as it happened. Treat indeed.

Foraging in the fridge for potential accompaniments I came across a bulb of fennel, complete with fronds that looked like it could do with eating up. From the fruit bowl, a pristine red pepper winked at me. Improvisation, something I do a lot of, became the buzzword. I chopped both into small pieces, added a teaspoon of fennel seeds to get more oomph – a good tip, this – and boiled them in a light stock. Then, out with the stick blender, whizz them into a purée and back on a low heat. Taste. Add a little salt, must have been a very light stock. More blending, needs to be smoother. Taste again. Hmmm… not quite there. “Cooking on my feet”, I added a tiny splash of Cognac and a slight swirl of cream. Oh yes, joy.

While this was going on I was fettling aubergines on the ridged griddle. I always cut them on the bias into slices, looks pretty and, after experimenting, I’m convinced it gives a nicer texture and better flavour. Got the griddle raging hot. Put the slices on and sprinkled some cumin and some truffle salt on the topside, gave them a minute or so then drizzled a little olive oil over. When the underneath showed dark brown char-lines (3-4 mins) I turned them over and anointed the slices with more cumin, salt and oil. Turn them back and forth a couple of times, you can get a nice lattice effect with the charring if you want. As soon as they were cooked through I put the slices into a low oven to keep warm.

Meanwhile the matchstick chips were pirouetting nicely in the Actifry (see review http://forkncork.com/on-test-tefal-actifry/ here), aided and abetted by a tablespoon of goose fat.

The hake was lightly floured and then pan-fried 2-3 mins per side. The griddle sorted the scallops a treat, lovely caramelisation, two minutes tops. Re-heated the purée, brought it altogether and plated up.

What’s that? Oh yes, there are peas in the piccy. Yes, petit pois (frozen) with a heap of chopped garden mint, a little butter and a grind of black pepper. Because I thought the palette would be improved by a touch of green and surprise, surprise, I didn’t have any ‘samfer’ to hand.

 

This repast was accompanied a treat by Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling 2008, a Clare Valley superstar and one of my favourite wines.

 

4 hake fillets

4 king scallops

flour, pepper and salt to dust hake

oil for frying (olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed to choice)

 

1 large aubergine cut on the bias into 20mm slices

truffle or sea salt

powdered cumin

extra virgin olive oil for the purée (which can be made in advance)

 

1 large bulb fennel, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

dash of cognac

1 tbsp single cream

2 cupfuls water or light stock

 

Something green!

Serves 4. Instructions in the text above.