I vaguely recall Gordon Ramsay rebuking a hapless restaurant owner/chef for serving food in scallop shells; I can't remember the exact expletives but his scorn has stayed with me. Sorry Gordon, but I'm not a restaurant owner and I cooked scallops in their shells. Is that such a crime against food? Or public taste? I don't think so. I didn't set out to cook scallops yesterday. I went to court in the morning, accompanying a colleague who had got on the wrong side of the DVLA (note to anyone out there contemplating battle with the DVLA: don't) and, thanks to a series of errors, beginning with her garage failing to send the DVLA the appropriate documentation on time and complicated by the DVLA sending her mail to an old address, she was summoned to court by the Secretary of State for Transport. The whole thing felt Kafkaesque; the magistrate perched behind a high bar while we sat down below on those ubiquitous blue chairs that seem de rigeur in all functionary buildings now, including university buildings, if you are lucky enough to be in one that has been renovated (there are also ageing red ones with stuffing oozing out). Anyway the magistrate looked like a caricature of a television magistrate, straining in his old-fashioned suit and peering out of little round glasses. I kept wanting to laugh, except that it was serious. Luckily the magistrate had the sense to annul the judgement with reasonable speed. I came back into town on the metro; some students got on near town and began to debate the intensity of their hangovers. I got off the metro, wandered past the fishmonger and found scallops in their shells, so I bought them and decided to try out Jamie's recipes. I should say that they were pretty expensive; scallops aren't something you should buy on the spur of the moment as you pass the fishmonger, particularly large, juicy king scallops. Or maybe they are...
Jamie has three recipes for scallops in their shells and suggests making them as a starter - presumably choosing one of the three recipes. I decided to try all three; since I had six scallops, I made two of each so we both got to try each one.
Scallops the old-school French way:
Sit the scallops in their shells over chopped spinach and top with a mix of butter, lemon zest, parsley, garlic and nutmeg; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Bake on top of a layer of rice or salt for 12 minutes.
Scallops with sweet tomato and basil
Blitz fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, balsamic vinegar and seasoning with a knob of butter; spoon into the scallop shells and put the scallop on top, covering with a rasher of pancetta. Bake on top of a layer of rice or salt for 15 minutes.
Scallops with ginger, soy and coriander
Lay scallops in their shells and pour over a mix of soy, lime, ginger, sugar, sesame oil and coriander, drizzle with olive oil and bake on top of a layer of rice or salt for 12 minutes.
The French-style scallop was nice; the Asian-style scallop tastier still and the Italian-style scallop (with tomatoes and basil and pancetta) was absolutely delicious. The bacon had infused the scallop and worked really well with the tomato and basil sauce. It would be a fantastic starter, always presuming your guests are the sort of people you can feed scallops to, which isn't a given around here, because you can layer up the scallop in advance and refrigerate until you're ready to bake it. I suppose you might not want to serve scallops in their shells to Gordon Ramsay, but I thought they looked and tasted lovely; as Jamie says, they might look like '1980s retro campness on a plate', but who said there was anything wrong with 1980s retro campness? I defy anyone not to succumb to a scallop, baked in its shell.