#437 Michael Ryan's Warm Scallop Salad

Hello folks, sorry for being away for so long; I really did not mean to be absent all this time. I shall be posting a little more regularly over the next few months – I promise!

This is the last of five scallop dishes and the final recipe in the Shellfish section of the book. The recipe comes from Irish chef Michael Ryan, who at the time of writing the book in the 1970s, was head chef at Arbetus Lodge, Cork, Ireland. Ryan was head chef there right up to the 1990s. He is still going strong as head chef at renowned restaurant The Provenance in Victoria, Australia.

Chef Michael Ryan (traveller.com)

I don’t know why I’ve left this recipe so long because it’s very quick and simple to make: just grilled scallops and a simple sauce. It puts excellent use to the delicious corals of the scallops too – a part so often discarded – by flavouring the hollandaise sauce with them.

For four people, you will need eight scallops. Remove their corals and cut away any sinewy parts, then slice the scallops as thinly as you can so that you end up with lots of discs.

Mix two tablespoons of olive oil with a teaspoon each of white wine and white wine vinegar. Season very well with salt and pepper and brush over four scallop shells; try to get the flat side of the shells, but don’t worry if you can only get hold of the curved side. If you can’t find any shells, you can brush a circle of the oil mixture over a small heatproof plate.

Arrange the discs in overlapping circles, not unlike the potato slices on the top of a Lancashire Hotpot. I had some of the oil mixture left so I brushed the top of the scallops with it. Set aside (or pop in the fridge for later). Turn your grill to its maximum setting and when very hot, slip the scallops underneath and cook for just two or three minutes – just time for them to go a little opaque.

As you wait for the grill to heat, make the sauce: have ready a quarter of a pint of hollandaise sauce (Jane’s method for making it can be found on this post here) and push the corals through a sieve into it. If making a hollandaise sauce seems a little daunting, you can buy it in jars these days. Stir the corals through and that is it! Very simple.

Arrange some salad leaves – I used rocket – on four serving dishes, place the scallops on top, and spoon the sauce into little ramekins. Eat immediately.

#437 Michael Ryan’s Warm Scallop Salad. In enjoyed this very much. Very simple to make and very few ingredients, ensuring the sweetness of the shellfish comes through first and foremost. Including the usually maligned corals in the hollandaise sauce is a genius idea – it looks so appetising and tastes surprisingly fresh and sweet for a butter sauce. The only changes I would make would be with the presentation: I would partially cover the scallops with the hollandaise and grill it again briefly. A very good dish though. 8/10

#356 Salmon in its own Juices

It used to be associated with fine dining and the upper-middle classes, but today whole salmon is such great value in Britain today. The reason for this switch is the shift in focus within the fishing industry from wild to farmed salmon. Salmon farmers get a bit of a bad press: they are blamed for polluting our seashores and are accused of producing a low quality product that lacks the fullness of flavour and firm texture that wild salmon are prized for. Like all farmers, there are good and bad and it is very hard to know which are which. However if you are going to a reputable fishmonger they should be able to inform you about the farm; plus, of course, the price of the fish will be a good indication of the quality of the farm.
Scottish fishermen spear salmon as they leap upriver

If you do see any wild Atlantic salmon and you can afford it, buy it and cook it simply like in this recipe. I know this is not the sustainable thing to do, but if current research is correct, the wild salmon population in the United Kingdom has gone past the point of no return and it will become extinct sadly soon. It is past saving; sad but true. It is a world away from the pre-industrial age where salmon was so common in the River Mersey that they were used as pig feed!

This is such an unbelievably easy dish to make you would be a fool not to try it:

Get yourself a nice bright-eyed, firm fleshed whole salmon, ask your fishmonger to descale and gut it if he hasn’t already done so already.

At home give it a rinse inside and out and pat it dry. Unroll a piece of foil that is quite a bit larger than the salmon and smear it with butter, salt and pepper. Butter and the season the fish on both sides as well as within. Lay it on the buttered foil and lay another sheet of buttered and seasoned foil on top. Wrap it up to make a spacious parcel. If you want to serve the fish cold, rather than hot, use olive oilrather than butter.

Now you have two options: you can cook the salmon in a fish kettle or the oven.

For the fish kettle: To eat it hot, lay the wrapped salmon on the rack and place it in the kettle. If the salmon is too large for the kettle (as mine was) behead the fish and wrap the head up separately. Place it over two hobs, cover it with ‘tepid water’ and slowly bring to a simmer. Let it simmer gently for five minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit in the water for 15 minutes more, then remove and unwrap. If you want to serve it cold, bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat and allow the salmon to cool in the water.

For the oven: To eat it hot bake in the oven at 180C (350F) for 50-60 minutes. If you doubt how long you should keep it in the oven, the fish is best served a little undercooked. However, this method ensures that the fish never dries out so worry about it leaving it cooking to long. To eat cold, put the fishy parcel on a baking tray and bake for an hour at 150C (300F) if under five pounds, if over bake for 12 minutes per pound.

Unwrap your fish and place it on a serving dish and get to work on making it look pretty.

You have an easy job if you are serving it hot because all you have to do is remove the skin and add a bit more salt and pepper. Make a hollandaise sauce by first boiling down any juices to a concentrated stock to use as the base to it. Check out this link if you want to use Jane Grigson’s own recipe for hollandaise sauce (though I think Gary Rhodes’s is the best and most fool-proof recipe).

If you are serving the fish cold for a buffet, you can get creative with the decoration. Skin it and remove the thin layer of brown meat if you like – though Griggers does say that she finds it ‘far too delicious to discard’. If you are used to cooking fish, you could try and remove the fillets take out the bones and then replace it. Adding cucumber scales to the fish used to be a common way to present a fish cooked like this, but I think it is best left alone. If you removed the head lay it down in front of the body and hide the join with ‘a ruffle of mayonnaise’. For Jane’s mayonnaise recipe click this link.

#356 Salmon in its own Juices. I served the salmon hot with hollandaise as suggested and some simple boiled vegetables. I thought this was delicious in its simplicity: essentially just salmon, butter, salt and pepper. The fish was moist and flaked off the bone whilst still yielding plenty of moisture. The hollandaise too was delicious, flavoured with those delicious concentrated juices. Excellent stuff! 9/10.

#178 Duck with Mint

Attempting the poultry section in English Food has been a paltry effort by me, but I intend to address this, people. I thought I’d start with one of the two duck recipes. This one, where the duck is stewed with a shed-load of mint seemed right up my summery alley. It also has the added bonus of a sauce paloise, which is very similar to a sauce béarnaise (except tarragon is substituted for mint) and uses a hollandaise sauce as its base. Now proficient in hollandaise sauce making, I was eager.

Apparently the French think it is hilarious that we have mint with our lamb, when blinking Johnny Foreigner goes around eating sauce paloise here there and everywhere with their duck! Only joking Frenchies, I loves ya really!

To make this, season a large duck inside and out with salt and pepper before stuffing its cavity with a whole bunch of mint. Next, wrap the duck in a large napkin or double-wrapped muslin. Half fill a large pot with water and add a large quartered carrot, a large onion studded with three cloves and a stick of celery. Bring it to the boil and then place the duck in and leave it to simmer, covered, for 2 ½ hours. When cooked, remove the napkin and place on a serving plate surrouded by mint leaves.

Start making the sauce around half an hour before the cooking time is up: Into a small saucepan add a tablespoon of chopped shallot, two tablespoons of chopped mint, a tablespoon of chopped chervil, a sprig of thyme, a quarter of a bay leaf and four tablespoons each of dry white wine and white wine vinegar, plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Boil down this mixture, until it has reduced by two-thirds. Allow to cool. Now place the mixture in a bowl and beat in three large egg yolks. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and beat in six ounces of unsalted butter bit by little bit. Season with lemon juice and more salt and pepper if required. Finally, stir through some freshly chopped mint leaves. Pour into a salad boat.

FYI: Chervil is tricky herb to get hold of, so instead of using it you can use the small yellow leaves from the inside of a bunch of celery, they provide a very similar flavour.

#178 Duck with Mint. If you don’t like mint, this is not the recipe for you. However, I love mint and it was just the thing for a summertime Sunday dinner. The duck was tasty, though a little dry, but the rich and tart sauce married with it perfectly well. In fact, the sauce paloise was the star of the show. I think it would go very well with lamb or even fish. The Medieval look of the birs with all the mint leave in and around it, was quite impressive too. Overall, I think this deserves 7.5/10 (though the sauce would be 9/10+ if I was marking it separately).

#177 Hollandaise Sauce

The fishmonger in the Arndale Centre in Manchester was selling sea bass for £1.50 each! What a bargain. I know that they’ve probably been dredged up by one of those massive trawler nets and by buying them I’ve surely helped seal the fate of several marine species, but ignorance is bliss so I won’t try to find out.

To go with the sea bass, I had samphire (see previous entry) and also made some hollandaise sauce. Not technically English, of course, but we’ve used it for so long in our cuisine it seems English – more English than, say mayonnaise anyway – and it is one of my favourite sauces. The trouble is, me and hollandaise has a chequered past; it’s a tricky sauce that is either amazing and delicious, or splits and is awful and goes in the bin. My success rate is around 50%. Griggers’ recipe is slightly different to the classic way of making it as it doesn’t use melted butter, but uses cubes of butter added gradually instead? Is this a foolproof recipe? We shall see…

FYI: hollandaise sauce first appeared as simply melted butter in eighteenth century France, but soon became the complex emulsion of butter and egg yolks we know and love and was added to the list of mother sauces of French cuisine by Escoffier in the early twentieth century (the others being béchamel, veloute, espangole and allemande).

This is the Griggers method (you can multiply up or down depending upon how much you need to make):

Begin by boiling down 3 tablespoons each of water and white wine vinegar and 10 crushed white peppercorns until just a tablespoon remains. Strain it into a bowl and allow to cool. Bring a pan of water to a simmer and place the bowl over it. Beat in three large egg yolks and beat in 6 ounces of unsalted butter bit by bit using a wire whisk. Do not over heat, or the eggs cook and the sauce splits. Season with salt and lemon juice.

#177 Hollandaise Sauce – 9/10. Well that was easy! This may be the fool-proof method I have been after (either that or it was a fluke). The sauce is beautifully rich, with a piquant tang of lemon and vinegar that cut through it so well that you easily drink a pit of the stuff. My only gripe is that this method doesn’t seem to make a very thick sauce, but that is being very nit-picky.

#176 Samphire

I came across some marsh samphire in the fishmongers the other week – I had been looking for it previously and thought I would have to go to extreme lengths to get hold of it – I bought it, just in case I never came across it again. Luckily, Griggers mentions in English Food that samphire can be successfully frozen by blanching briefly and then popping into the freezer.

Samphire grows on the salty soil near the sea, and marsh samphire grows in salt marshes. The word samphire is a corruption of the French Saint Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen. He was obviously looking after them by providing the coastal veg. Samphire comes/came under several names: sea asparagus, glasswort (it was used in glass production), crab grass and frog grass. Keep a look out for it when you are near the sea – rock samphire grows well on Dover cliffs, but collecting it is a precarious activity – ‘a dreadful trade’, according to Shakespeare in King Lear. Best stick to the marshes, if you want to try and collect your own.

Samphire is dealt with in two ways: pickling or boiling. Boiled samphire is generally served as a vegetable with fish or lamb or with a hollandaise sauce (which I did, along with some pan-fried sea bass). To do this, boil rapidly in unsalted water until tender, this should be just five minutes. Drain and serve.


#176 Samphire. 5/10. It seems that the blanching and freezing technique is not as successful as indicated by Griggers; they were unfortunately left all soggy and not at all crisp and tender. The flavour however, was good; salty and sweet with a mild taste of ocean ozone. I think that I shall try it again but without freezing it this time.