In South Africa we almost always buy our scallops frozen, since the fresh variety is so elusive. But don’t let that put you off of this moreish mollusc. When you defrost scallops in the fridge overnight, they’re just about as buttery and smooth as when you cook them fresh from the sea. And the texture is surprisingly similar to the pearl barley I used in this risotto dish, which – scallops or no scallops – is delicious, even on its own.
4 baby leeks
45 ml butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300 ml pearl barley
125 ml white wine
1 litre chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
45 ml basil pesto
250 ml frozen peas
100 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 baby leeks
30 – 45 ml butter
300 g scallops
fresh basil leaves
Start by cutting the ends off the leeks. Then, slice the leeks in half, lengthwise. Chop the halves up and wash thoroughly. Melt the butter in a deep saucepan and add the leeks and garlic. Fry until soft.
Add the barley and continue to fry for 1 minute while stirring. Add the wine and let it cook until all the wine has been absorbed.
Add half of the chicken stock and let it simmer, stirring only once in a while (no need to stir continuously). Add more stock when needed. Cook until the barley is soft. There should still be some liquid left in the risotto. Don’t cook it until dry.
Season with salt and pepper and stir in the pesto. Pour boiling water on the peas and let them mellow until just soft. Stir in the peas and parmesan cheese.
Halve the remaining two leeks lengthwise and fry them in a griddle pan until charred. Then, melt the butter in a pan and fry the scallops on both sides (about 1 minute per side). Season with salt and pepper. The scallops must be golden, but not overcooked. You can also fry the scallops in a griddle pan.
Spoon the risotto onto a big serving bowl and arrange the scallops and leeks on top. Decorate with fresh basil leaves and serve with limes. You can fry half the limes in the same pan that you used to fry the scallops.
SEARING SCALLOPS LIKE A PRO
Rest your scallops on a kitchen towel for about 1 minute to get rid of any excess liquid.
Heat the pan until it’s really hot and add butter or olive oil.
When placing your scallops in the pan, don’t crowd them together. Leave enough space between them so they don’t start steaming each other.
Once your scallops are done cooking, serve immediately. A cold and rubbery mollusc seldom goes down a treat.