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This week two dishes emerge from a scallop shell. 

Both fork from an iconic scallop dish from Beijing. Reminiscent of the birth of Venus, a single scallop sits in shell adorned with a flowing mane of glass vermicelli. 

On a Marco-Polo tip, the dish is given the Botticelli treatment via the addition of every Italian’s favourite ingredient – bottarga. While white asparagus, April’s best seasonal vegetable and sister to the scallop,  is peeled to form translucent pearls of tagliatelle which play the role of vermicelli in a nod to spaghetti bottarga. The first dish is a buffet of those elements – celebrating white asparagus in its pure form, with a perfectly seared scallop, asparagus ribbons and angel hair spaghetti all adorned by a luscious scallop garlic butter sauce and generous grating of bottarga.

(Feel free to omit the angel hair vermicelli for an achingly elegant gluten free option.)

A few of my favourite things.

Serves 2 

  • 2 scallops in shell
  • 100g of 1 stick of bottarga found in any specialist Italian deli, peeled and finely grated on microplane
  • 1 clove of spring garlic
  • 3 spears of white asparagus
  • 2 nests of angel hair spaghetti
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 200g butter
Still life mise en place.

First: prepare the scallops. Using a cutlery knife, prize open the shell at its base. When you find an entry way, on the flat side of the shell, run the knife over the inner roof of the shell carefully to prize away the scallop. In doing so, the shell will open up and the scallop will present itself. The scallop has a skirt that you must pull off carefully.

Place the skirt in cold water in a container to soak ahead of a thorough cleaning, in preparation for the stock. Now, using a sharp knife, cut off the black guts at a 45 degree angle and discard. 

Finally, using your knife, set the scallop and its coral free from its shell.

Repeat with the second, reserving the skirts.

Thoroughly rinse the scallops, and their coral (orange part) before drying and laying onto kitchen paper. 

Throughly soak and rinse the skirts before placing into a small saucepan with the lid on on a low heat. 

Scallop skirts soaking.

As the heat hits the skirts they will release a liquor, which literally tastes like essence of scallop. Leave on a low heat for 10 minutes or so to allow the skirts to give off their liquor fully, then turn off the heat and leave to sit with the lid on while you prepare the rest. 

Peel outer layer of white asparagus. 

Once tough outer edges are removed, take two of the asparagus and use peeler to create long ribbons of asparagus. They should look like pearly tagliatelle. Keep in cold water. 

With the rest of the asparagus cut their length in half and blanch in rapidly boiling well salted water for about 5 minutes until soft to the bite. Leave to rest. 

Reserve the cooking liquid. 

Melt the butter in a small pan, adding in one clove of grated garlic. Strain the scallop skirt stock into the butter and whisk until forms a luscious sauce. Add a pinch of salt for seasoning, and a small squeeze of lemon. 

Now bring your asparagus blanching liquor to the boil and add in your nests of angel hair spaghetti. 

Cook until very al dente. Use tongues to remove and place into a bowl with 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Keep water at a rolling boil while you bring a non-stick pan onto high heat, until just below smoking. 

Whilst the frying pan is reaching it’s heat, add your ribbons of asparagus into the blanching pot for no longer than 10 seconds. Remove from pan and onto draining paper. 

Ribbons of white asparagus, blanched.

Season your scallops with salt and drizzle generously with olive oil before adding to the very hot non-stick pan. The pan should sizzle immediately with the heat. Let a subtle golden crust form before flipping over and repeating the same, should take no longer than 40 seconds-to-1 minute on each side. I like my scallops very rare but feel free to cook longer if you wish. 

Let scallops rest whilst you re-plunge vermicelli into hot boiling water for 30 seconds. Then into a bowl again with olive oil ahead of plating.

Now arrange components onto plate: 1 seared scallop per plate, 1 spear of white asparagus, a mound of pearly white asparagus ribbons, a mound of angel hair spaghetti. Making sure the sauce is very hot, now pour upon all the elements on the dish. Sprinkle each component generously with the grated bottarga. Grind of black pepper on the vermicelli and a wedge of lemon to garnish. 

Buffeted elements. A study in beige, white, and yellow.

If you like, you can also try a version of this dish with the scallops grilled in their shell, the white asparagus ribbons sat upon them like vermicelli. Makes an A1 hot entree channeling the birth of Venus. 

To do this, wash the scallop shell cup well. Into which you will add 1 whole scallop sliced into three. Add 2 tbsp of your garlic scallop skirt butter and place under the broiler until sizzling and just cooked. 

Cut your ribbons of white asparagus lengthways to resemble thin vermicelli. 

Take scallops out from under the grill. Let rest while you blanch the white asparagus ribbons for a mere 8 seconds. 

Let drain on paper before adorning the scallop with a nest of the white asparagus. 

Pour the hot scallop butter sauce upon the whole thing and sprinkle over the grated bottarga generously.

Garnish with a slice of bottarga and serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over before eating.

Version 2.0.

Hannah Hammond is a London-based chef who has worked at the River Cafe, Leo’s, and Le Servan. Photography by Hannah Hammond.

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