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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Spain - under my skin

Spain has a way of getting under my skin, it's a country I can't get out of my head once back home. We've just returned from a dream two weeks. Rediscovering Barcelona and Port Andratx on Mallorca and getting to know Valencia and doing the tapas trail in Logrono. As always - not enough time but enough to feel enthusiastic to recreate and evoke the tastes and flavours in my own kitchen here in France. Some of the most remarkable food was the simplest. Isn't it always? My favourite from this trip: sepia (cuttlefish) on the plancha. I'm hooked. In Valencia black paella was new for me as was suckling lamb done in a wood fired oven in Logrono. Absolutely no complaints.

Trouble is getting the ingredients. Here in south west France the local (fantastic) produce is very regional so finding 'proper' Spanish ingredients comes as a challenge. However, I've made a start with a well known dish from where in Spain it comes I'm not sure but it's a safe bet for me. Black pudding is easy to find here and very delicious it is from the town of Vic-en-Bigorre at our local Saturday market.  Black pudding is not everyone's cup of tea but if you have the chance to taste a really good one you'll soon be converted.  The best black pudding I have ever had comes from Burgos in Spain and includes rice and for my money nothing else touches it.

This is not really a recipe as such it's just a case of putting all these splendid ingredients together. I doubt scallops are traditional in Spain but I've married them here with the morcilla (black pudding) as a flavour experiment. The texture of the scallops and the creaminess of the black pudding feel right in the mouth heightened by the succulent beans and the fresh, tangy mint.  It feels good. Essential ingredient next is the sea salt.

I first made this dish about thirty years ago. Spurred on by the loveable English cook, Keith Floyd, whose love of Spain matched my own and whose love of slapping up great simple ingredients with a glass of wine in his hand and a great amount of gusto enthused us all. He made us feel happy, not just about his cooking but about life and living and sharing. I can't quite remember off the top of my head how he made his broad bean dish but ever since then I've been putting together one version or another. The following is how I made it last night. Next time might be different. I might add some jamon Serrano and a splash of white wine or not as the case may be.

Serves: 2 as a main course

1 x 500g small black pudding, sliced into even 2cm slices
500g frozen broad beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet white onion, finely sliced
6 scallops with or without coral
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Handful of fresh mint leaves


Transfer the frozen broad beans to a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for a few minutes to cool then pod each bean of its tough outer shell. Discard the shells and set the podded beans aside.

In a medium sized frying pan heat the oil and sear the scallops for two to three minutes on each side until they are cooked through and lightly browned. Remove and keep warm.

Add the onion to the pan and gently cook until soft and translucent. Remove and keep warm.

Add the black pudding to the pan and cook until it is cooked through - about two to three minutes on each side.

Return the onion to the pan with the black pudding and add the beans. Cook a further few minutes, gently turning the ingredients around to mix together but without breaking up the delicate slices of meat.

Place the scallops on top, scatter over the mint and liberally sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper. An extra splash of extra virgin olive oil will help loosen the ingredients and given an extra sheen. Serve immediately.