On Saturday I had such an adventure! The nice people at Miele (pronounced Mee-la, which is the first thing I learned on the day) invited me to the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham, and having never been to Birmingham I said yes. After a pleasant trip up on the train I met up with the others, Cara from gourmet chick - Kit from the cooking forum and Jan from what do I want to cook today and Lauren and Cherry who were our hosts for the day.
Starting point was obviously the Miele stand attached to a working kitchen with seating in front for an audience to watch chefs create masterpieces. It was where I was expecting to be sitting when Michelin starred chef Martin Blunos worked his magic for what my itinerary listed as a Miele experience. Which prospect obviously delighted me. But if I'd read the email with a little more attention I might have realised before that moment that I was actually going to be up there on the stage, with the chef, making the same dish as him. In front of the audience. Oh.
Asked to be back at the Miele Kitchen by about 12.15 we had a bit of a wander round the show, an achievement as the show was sold out and I swear all 24,000 of them were there at 11am! Some stalls were interesting and some struck me as odd - why would Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs have a stand with a display of fake Duracell here? With sharpened elbows I managed to sample a couple of cheeses but mostly the scrum was too dense to get close. Can't say it was fun.
Dragging my feet a little with fear at the idea of cooking before strangers I somehow ended up back at the kitchen on time. Brave as a brave thing, I donned my apron and checked out the array of ingredients laid out on the bench. Scallops. Mmmm - yum. Panic over, I decided I could do this, with or without an audience. Thane Prince set the ball rolling then Martin Blunos came out to much applause and told all of us we were to make scallops baked in the shell, the edges sealed with puff pastry. Which sounded so good, and which, weirdly, I had once intended to make a version of as the fish course for a dinner for my father's birthday but they never happened because the fishmonger kept his scallops on the half shell. No idea what he'd done with the other halves.
Professional chefs are extraordinarily quick with a knife. It's brilliant to watch and difficult to emulate. We tried though, and somehow ended up with matchsticks of leeks, carrots and celery, and our lovely scallops sliced neatly into 3, roe removed. Though if I'm honest my matchsticks were a wee bit fatter than his. We followed everything he did with the help of the Miele kitchen workers and finished up with a really pretty presentation of baked scallops.
Professional chefs, particularly by the time they are collecting Michelin stars, are not just quick but hugely knowledgeable not just about what to cook, but also how best to do it. The tiny, but probably crucial things I learned from Martin Blunos for this dish are that the scallops should be sliced thinly before being put back into the shells so that they will cook through in the same time it takes for the pastry seal to puff into a golden ruff. Before you put the sealed shells onto the baking tray make a halo of crushed foil for them to sit on so that the butter sauce does not leak out ruining both the scallops and the pastry. To make them impressive to serve, mountain salt or seaweed onto the plate first to make the sit proudly till they are open making it easy to dip the pastry into the lovely sauce, thereby providing maximum pleasure while eating.
Scallops Baked in their Shells
For each person you need
3 fat diver caught scallops, and both sides of the shell
100g butter puff pastry
1 small carrot
1 small leek
1 stick of celery
1/2 tspn coriander seeds
1/2 tspn black onion seeds
1/2 tspn cumin seeds
1 tbspn noilly prat or dry white wine
100ml fish stock
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cut a 4cm piece from the end of the peeled carrot and slice it very finely into matchsticks. Do the same with 4cm pieces of leek and celery, and keep each pile separate.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of three separate pans then add a scant half teaspoon of the seeds, a different one in each pan. Cook for a minute or two till fragrant, then add the carrot to the pan with coriander, the leek to the pan with black onion seeds and the celery to the pan with the cumin. Add a splash of wine and stock to each pan and cook gently till the vegetables are softened.
Take the orange roe from the edge of each scallop, removing and discarding the membrane that attaches it to the flesh at the same time. Put the roe into a blender with the egg yolk and blitz briefly till you have a smooth intensely coloured wash.
Flour a board and roll out the pastry into an oblong roughly 30cm by 12cm then cut inot three matching long strips, long enough to wrap around each scallop shell.
When the vegetables are softened add about a teaspoon of diced butter to each pan, then shake the pans to and fro to emulsify the liquids to make a sauce.
Make three 'donuts' with foil on a baking tray on which to rest the finished scallops.
Scrunch a tea towel onto the bench then place three half shells on it so that they sit flat. Spoon leeks into one, carrots into another and celery into the third. Make a little rosette of the scallop slices on top of each of the vegetables, then spoon over the corresponding butter sauce.
With a pastry brush make a generous ring of the egg roe wash around the outside edge of one of the empty scallop shells. Then - and this is as tricky as it gets - make a ring of the wash around the outside of the shell that is holding the leeks and scallops. Take one of the strips of pastry and, putting the two shells together, seal all the way round the shell. Put the finished shell onto one of the foil rings on the tray. Repeat this with the other two scallops.
Carefully put the tray into the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, till the pastry is puffed and golden.
Serve on a bed of salt crystals.
Let your guests prise each scallop open, scoff the scallops, dipping bits of ripped pastry into the lovely liquor pooled in the shell.
Obviously the other thing Michelin chefs have is a brigade of helpers to do the washing up! It was lovely to have a succession of flavours to go with the scallops but to make it at home I think I would have a single shell atop a hillock of salt as a delicate fish course, just to tantalise.