Pan Fried Scallops, Morcilla, Pancetta & White Bean Puree
inspired by The Baraset Barn
It’s fair to say the last few months have taught us a few things about restaurants. With chefs putting recipes online, meal kits you can make at home, and restaurant suppliers delivering directly to the public, we have really got a sense of what goes into the food we eat when dining out.
Hopefully we have also got a better understanding of what it costs.
A couple of months ago a chef wrote on Twitter “If a large, hand dived scallop costs me £3.50, how much would you be prepared to pay for it as a starter?”.
The responses were fascinating. You could tell straight away who the fellow chefs replying were. Their answers ranged from £13-15.
However the answers from the general public were far more wide ranging. One person thought £5 would be a fair price. It is only one scallop after all, she said.
Another said a maximum of £10. That was only if the garnishes made it worthwhile. Which I guess means if you got a lot more served with it.
Plenty said between £7-£8. Lots of people commented that restaurants needed to be fairly priced. If they were too expensive they could exclude local customers.
It just goes to show how much we, the customer, need to understand what the costs of running a restaurant are.
It’s not just the cost of the food. The rent, business rates, staff costs and other bills all add up. We are not just paying for the food we eat and the wine we drink. We are paying for the building and the people too.
The reason the chefs responses were £13-£15 was because that is how much you would need to sell it for to make a profit. In the industry there’s a general rule. Times the cost of produce by 3, you break even. Times the amount by 4, you make a profit.
Surely that is fairly priced? The business makes a small profit. The customer gets to eat an amazing product.
Of course you don’t necessarily use one rule for every dish. Scallops are a premium item, so maybe you only break even on that dish. But you can put a bowl of soup on the menu for £6 and no one will complain. That will have cost pennies to make.
But it does go to show how skewed our relationship with food has become. Big supermarkets and industrialised large scale farming mean we no longer have any idea of the value of produce. We think that because you can buy a steak for £2.99 in Aldi, there’s a limit to what they should cost in restaurants. Regardless in the difference in quality and welfare.
My scallops didn’t cost £3.50 each (otherwise they definitely would be only one on the plate!). They cost £1 each from Fresh Cornish Fish.
Mine are not hand dived, which is one of the reasons they are cheaper. Hand dived scallops are the most sustainable as they are gathered by hand, so the sea floor is not disrupted. But because you have to send out divers to pick small quantities, this is a more expensive way of fishing.
The worst way to catch scallops (and the most common) is dredging. This is when large nets are scraped along the sea floor, catching everything along the way. These dredgers also destroy all the habitats on the seabed, so nothing is left.
Thankfully my scallops didn’t come from dredgers. The ones sold by Fresh Cornish Fish are a by-catch of their day boat fishermen. I’m guessing whilst fishing for flatfish, you might also gather some scallops. Maybe. I’m definitely no expert in fishing…
But I am reassured to know they don’t come from dredgers. We need to ask ourselves, if we only have a few pounds to spend on scallops, would I rather have a whole packet of ones from a dredger, or a couple of more sustainably caught ones?
I’ve no idea what The Baraset Barn charges for a scallop dish. This restaurant, just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon is a family favourite. It’s a lovely restaurant with an outdoor terrace and gorgeous food. Since I’ve last been there they have also opened a hotel on site.
There’s no scallops on the menu at the moment. But last summer they had this dish on the menu.
“Pan Fried Scallops and Spanish Morcilla, Crisp Pancetta, White Bean Puree”
Sounds delicious! Even if I’m not entirely sure what Morcilla is when I first read it. From the picture it looks like a kind of black pudding. Which is spot on.
Morcilla is a Spanish black pudding made with pork, pigs blood, spices and rice.
So I’m off to Borough Market. I’m sure somewhere there must sell it.
Sure enough at Brindisa Spanish Foods, I find Morcilla. It might have cost £4, but I reckon I can get two or three different meals out of it.
I pick up some pancetta slices and a tin of butter beans on the way home and I’m good to go.
This is one of those dishes that sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.
I make the puree by frying onion and garlic, then adding the butter beans and vegetable stock. After 5 minutes into a blender until smooth.
If I wanted to be really like a restaurant I would probably pass it through a sieve right now. Mine definitely looks more like baby food than a refined puree. But it tastes nice, and to me that’s what matters.
I heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the pancetta slices. Once they have crisped up they go onto some kitchen paper and now in go slices of the Morcilla. I wasn’t sure whether to keep the sausage casing on or not. As it turns out it all came off during frying anyway, so that answers that question.
Once the morcilla is crispy on both sides that joins the pancetta on the kitchen paper.
Now for the scallops.
I’ve only ever cooked them once before, when making Scallops in Seaweed Butter.
These are far larger than those, and also have the orange roe still attached. I really don’t know why people cut the roe off. I understand if you’re going to use it to make something else, but so many people throw it away. Don’t! It’s so delicious.
So with their corals still firmly attached they go into the frying pan. Some people say by the time you have put you scallops in the pan one by one, it’s time to start turning them. But I find they need a little longer before flipping over. Probably because they are quite big.
Actually they’re enormous. These scallops suddenly seem excellent value for money.
Once the scallops are cooked (about a minute and a half on each side seemed about right) I spoon the puree onto plates. I’m generous with it. Seeing as it’s not going to look like fine dining as it’s a bit lumpy, there’s absolutely no point dishing up a tiny restaurant portion.
Onto the spoonfuls of puree go the black pudding, scallops and pancetta. I finish with some chopped parsley.
A dish that is perfect for a treat or a special occasion.
Or just a Friday night dinner. Any excuse really.