Delia

Shaun Hill’s Sauteed Scallops with Lentil Sauce

Everyone I know in the world of cooking and catering agrees unanimously that this is the best lentil recipe ever invented. Shaun Hill, one of Britain’s most outstandingly gifted chefs, served this in his restaurant, The Merchant House, in Ludlow, and generously allowed me to adapt it and use it here.


Serves 6 as a starter

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three

Shaun Hill’s Sauteed Scallops with Lentil Sauce
Ingredients
 18 plump, fresh scallops, cleaned, with the corals attached
 2 oz (50 g) green lentils (no need to soak), rinsed
 10 fl oz (275 ml) hot stock made with Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder
 2 dessertspoons groundnut or other flavourless oil
 ½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
 1 fat clove garlic, crushed
 1 inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
 2 large, ripe tomatoes
 1 level dessertspoon cardamom pods, seeds removed and husks discarded
 2 oz (50 g) unsalted butter
 1 level tablespoon crème fraîche
 juice ½ lemon
 ¾ oz (20 g) fresh coriander, chopped, plus 6 sprigs to garnish
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
Equipment
You will also need one medium-sized and one large, heavy-based frying pan.

Method

To cook the lentils for the sauce, place them in a saucepan with the stock and a pinch of salt and simmer gently with a lid on for 40-45 minutes, until they’re really soft and beginning to break up. Then drain them, reserving the cooking liquid. Now heat half the oil in the medium-sized frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry until pale golden – about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, skin the tomatoes. To do this, place them in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water on to them. Leave them for exactly a minute, then remove them, slip off their skins (protecting your hands with a cloth if they’re hot) and finely chop them. Next, remove the pan from the heat, add the cardamom seeds, stir for a few seconds, then add the tomatoes, two-thirds of the cooked lentils and all the cooking liquid. After that, whiz the whole lot to a purée in a food processor, then add the remaining lentils. All this can be done in advance.

When you are ready to finish the dish, re-heat the lentil purée, whisk in the butter, crème fraîche and lemon juice, and taste and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Finally, add the chopped coriander and keep the lentil mixture warm while you cook the scallops. To do this, heat the large frying pan over a high heat without adding any fat. Dry the scallops and corals with kitchen paper. When the pan is searing hot, lightly brush them on both sides with the remaining oil and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper.

Now add them to the pan and let them cook without moving for about one minute, until the underside is dark brown and caramelised, then use a small palette knife to flip them over. Continue to cook for 30 seconds on the other side, but no more. What you are aiming for is a golden, caramelised outside, with a soft and barely cooked inside. It’s important to have your frying pan really hot to get the dish right – if the scallops boil or steam, they will lose the concentrated flavour needed to balance the sauce.

To serve, arrange the scallops on warmed serving plates or in clean scallop shells, then spoon over the lentil sauce and garnish with the sprigs of coriander.

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