Chilled scallop canapés with smoked paprika, seaweed-butter and lime

These sound fancy but they were quite easy to put together and can be made in advance, so they’re easy to serve if you’re having a party.


Get about one scallop per guest (or two if you want to make it a more substantial dish than just a canapé).


I love scallops. My dad was a scallop diver so they’ve never been far away from my consciousness.


Shell and lightly clean them.

Separate the coral. You can cook them at the same time as the white flesh and eat them when you like but don’t include them in the canapé itself.

Put the white flesh into the freezer for about 40 minutes. This will allow it to firm up.


Remove then slice horizontally, so that each scallop produces two or more thin discs of tender flesh.

Dry each piece with a paper towel.


Season both sides with a little salt and some paprika (smoked paprika if you can get it).

Heat some olive oil in a pan on relatively high heat.

Add the scallops and coral (in batches if you have a large amount).


Cook for about 40-50 seconds on one side (or at least until that side starts to brown – as in the above image) then turn over. Cook for about 30-40 seconds on the other side, or again until it starts to brown.

Remove the scallops from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature. Put them in the fridge.


Add a dash of soy sauce, a dash of mirin and half a teaspoon of honey to the pan. Stir and bring to the boil, then take off the heat and pour the sauce into a small dipping bowl.


When the time comes spread some seaweed butter onto a ritz cracker, or better still some miniature blini. Top with a slice of scallop and if you’re serving immediately pour a little of the dipping sauce over the scallop and garnish with a tiny sliver of lime peel. TINY. 


If you’re not serving the canapés immediately save the dipping sauce until right before you serve, cover the canapés and keep them in the fridge.

You can just eat the cooked coral on its own (I did; and I felt no guilt) or you can serve them separately with toothpicks and the dipping sauce.

The fresher the scallops, the better.


And naturally this goes very well with a martini. It’s an exquisite snack for even the most esteemed of guests.

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A Martini on the Rocks

Die-hard martini fans, look away now…

  

This sounds like a very glamorous, American thing to order at a bar: “I’ll take a martini on the rocks“. 

Conversely, it is a very uncommon thing to say in the United Kingdom.

Us Brits tend not to say “on the rocks” for fear of sounding affected. With the exception of obvious drinks such as spirits and mixers (which normally come with ice as standard), we will otherwise simply ask for a drink then ask the bar tender to put ice in it. Our eloquence may know no bounds in our literature, but when it comes to alcohol we tend to prefer clear concision and direct instruction; no bullshit – and certainly no risk of ballsing up the drinks order with potentially confusing idioms.

If I asked for “a martini on the rocks” I would also be very concerned that I might receive a glass of straight vermouth topped up with ice cubes. This has definitely happened in the past, and while not necessarily unpleasant for many people, it would likely disappoint a gin-fiend waiting for their martini fix (you know who you are – and we’re all friends here).

This kind of vermouth calamity can sometimes happen simply when you order a martini without any mention of it being on the rocks – continental Europe take note! Presumably the bar tender merely thought you were referring to the Martini brand of vermouth, rather than the life-altering, semi-spiritual cocktail that we have all come to love.

  

But back to this martini variation – the one with ice cubes.

The two main points that separate a martini on the rocks from a classic martini are obvious but fundamental: temperature and texture. Yes it’s just ice we’re adding, but it changes everything.

I have frequently discussed the importance of temperature when making a martini.

If the gin or vodka has been stored in the freezer it shouldn’t be necessary to add ice to the drink at any stage of its production. I don’t shake or stir my martinis with ice if the alcohol has been sufficiently chilled already. This makes it very easy to rustle up a couple of them at very short notice and they taste – in my humble opinion – the best.

The other crucial aspect of a martini is texture. A martini made with gin from the freezer has an almost irreplaceable texture – like cold, almost crystallised oil.

A normal martini stirred with ice is lighter, not usually as cold, but still smooth.

A martini shaken with ice – perhaps the most famous variation – is also lighter, fresher even, sometimes with tiny flecks of ice that gradually melt as you sip. However, I don’t think it’s as magically intoxicating (in a literary sense as well as a chemical one) as a martini made with freezer-gin.

One surprise is that a martini on the rocks made by pouring room temperature vermouth and gin into a glass then topping it up with ice does not taste as whole-heartedly appalling as it might sound to a die-hard martini fan. It was somewhat refreshing, if an ultimate disappointment when compared to the real-deal.

It’s therefore preferable to use vermouth from the fridge and gin from the freezer if possible – but it’s not essential.

Otherwise I would recommend that you use the same vermouth-to-gin ratio that you’re used to (guidance here).

I would also recommend adding a generous slice of lemon, rather than a lemon twist or an olive. The latter two are too astringent or savoury for this drink.

If you’re in a bit of a pickle, you don’t even need a proper V-shaped martini glass for this variation (although they are always better).

However, with the ice cubes and lemon bobbing around in the glass this version cannot rival a smooth, tranquil, classic martini. 

  

I would recommend it only in times of emergency, when you haven’t had the chance to chill your gin in advance. Under such circumstances, it could prove a life-saving variation on the classic drink, especially at the end of the day in a hot country. Here’s looking at you, Brazil, Australia, India, the Mediterranean and others.

Otherwise, why not just have a gin and tonic? You read more about those here.

How to cool down your gin very quickly

Here is a little tip my brother taught me. If you need to cool down a bottle of gin and you don’t have a lot of time (say an hour or so) don’t panic, you can do the following:

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Take some kitchen paper (one or two sheets).

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Run them under the tap then wrap them around the bottle. Put it in the freezer for an hour. It should cool down a lot faster than normal.

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Thus allowing you to enjoy a cold martini in record time. Phew!

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As an added, slightly unorthodox benefit, you can peel off the frozen kitchen roll and use it as a soothing face mask. Just a suggestion.