Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Scallop pie

When we went to Tasmania a couple of years ago, I discovered the delights of scallop pie, and since then have made it on several occasions, in different variations. It's a delicious and unusual dish which does equally well for lunch or dinner, is simple to make and not expensive either, despite the often high price of scallops, as you only need about 150-200 g of scallops to make a decent-sized pie that will easily do for four people. Fresh of course is best but as I can testify to, frozen scallops also work well, as the sauce that they are poached and cooked in really brings out their flavour.
I always lightly poach the scallops first, in a liquid made up of a/a little melted butter; a little white wine; herbs; salt and pepper, and maybe a little fish stock if I happen to have some around, or else a little water. The scallops should not be poached for more than 3-4 mins, 5 if frozen, then left to cool while you prepare the pastry. I always make the same kind of pastry: a basic short-crust pastry, but instead of adding water to the flour/butter mixture, I add yogurt or sour cream. This makes for a beautiful, soft, moist but not sticky pastry which doesn't dry out at all and tastes really good even the day after it's been cooked(if there is ever any leftover pie, that is!) But though the sauce always uses the poaching liquid as a starter, along with a roux(a little flour and butter), the flavour of it varies every time I make it, depending on what I feel like doing, and what herbs are to hand. For instance, I've made sauces strongly French in influence, with cream, white wine and tarragon; others with a more Middle Eastern touch, with a hint of cumin, mint and cardamon; and the other day I made one with an Asian-flavoured inspiration, featuring Vietnamese mint, lemongrass, lime and kankung(also known as entsai or Chinese water spinach) for a special Sunday lunch with friends. Here's how it was made:
Poach the scallops in a liquid made of a dab of melted butter, some white wine, some chopped lemongrass, and the juice of one lime. Add salt and pepper. Liquid should be enough to well cover the scallops. When the scallops are poached(no more than 5 mins), take off stove and leave to cool while you prepare the pastry: rubbing butter through plain flour then adding enough plain creamy yogurt(not fat-free)and/or sour cream so that you end up with a good ball of dough--add extra flour if too sticky, or extra yogurt/cream if too dry. Set aside to rest while you prepare the sauce: Make a roux with some flour and butter, then slowly add the poaching liquid, stirring as you go so that it thickens well. Add chopped Vietnamese mint, a little extra lime juice if you have some, season to taste. Separately, cook the kankung(a few seconds only needed) with a little onion.
Roll out the pastry: you will need both a bottom and top to the pie(more needed for the bottom as it needs to be thicker). Lay out the bottom of the pie in a glass buttered pie dish. In a bowl, combine the scallops, the cooked kankung, and the sauce, and mix well till all combined. Now lay the scallop mixture on the pastry, and cover with the top half of pastry, making a small round hole in the centre to let steam out. Cook the pie in a 180 C/350 F oven for about 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden-brown.
As it was for lunch, I served it with various salads--but as a main course for dinner it's also excellent paired with cooked vegetables.

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