Queenies and smoked bacon

I love this dish. It’s lazy, tasty and healthy with a good dose of naughty, too. It’s the kind of dish I’ll throw together on an impulse so long as the ingredients are available and the sun is shining. Queen scallops are a medium sized scallop, about as big as a button. In the Isle of Man, ‘queenies’ are served with pride as they are the local dish of choice.

Around this time of the year, queenies become widely available. I bought ten of these little beauties for €2 today and at those prices, I couldn’t resist. Mind you, there’s just enough in ten for one person. For a dinner party, I’d buy 50.

The first thing I did to put my super delicious lunch together was to build myself a Greek salad with some fresh chard and little gem lettuce from my garden, then some thinly sliced red onion and cucumber, three cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped, an egg, boiled and quartered, feta cheese, broken up and sprinkled and some black olives, scattered about. I threw in a sprinkling of mixed seeds, too.

Next, the queenies. First, I heated a pan and tossed some olive oil on it, then some butter. When the pan gets hot, throw the chopped up smoked bacon lardons on it and allow them to char before throwing on your queenies. These cook very quickly so you need the pan to be warm and the bacon to be almost cooked. Toss the scallops about, gently, in the oil, butter and bacon fat. It’s all about the flavour, baby.

Finally spoon the mixture out and directly on and all over the salad, then toss some fresh lemon juice over it. Give it a gentle shake and toss and, presto, it’s done.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

First, let me say I’ve never been to Sicily. I’ve been to Italy, places like Rome, Turin and Milan and did my best to try as many classic Italian recipes while I was there. If there’s an Italian cookery programme on the tv, I’m there, Chef’s Table, Keith Floyd, Antonio Carlucci and Gennaro Contaldo, Gino D’Acampo, Rick Stein, even Jamie Oliver. I didn’t discover garlic until I kissed an American girl when I was eleven. That was the first time I tasted pasta, too. I own an English translation of The Silver Spoon and I’ve read Pellegrino Artusi‘s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, from cover to cover but my real go to Italian cookbook is the modestly titled Pasta & Pizza, the 1978 edition, with recipes compiled by Anna Martini and an introduction by Massimo Alberini.

Of course, there are plenty of Italian restaurants in Ireland and plenty of Italian families with a long tradition in this country. So down the years, I’ve eaten many Italian dishes and from many regions of Italy. I’ve made pasta and tried different sauces and styles.

I don’t know if this dish is really a Sicilian recipe but it was given to me by a Sicilian chef. Secretly, I think it is more like a Neapolitan recipe – salty and saucy –  but regardless, it’s easy to prepare, very cheap to prepare and delicious.

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Ingredients

  • six anchovies, deboned and finely chopped.
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • one clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of fine tomato passata
  • two chillis, finely chopped
  • one tablespoon of capers
  • pasta, penne is best but I use spaghetti, it’s a personal choice.

 

Instructions

Boil a pot of salted water. Put in the pasta and reduce heat to a simmer.

Heat a pan and add olive oil. Sauté the finely chopped onion until it softens, then add the anchovies, chillis and garlic in that order. Allow the flavours to amalgamate, cooking gently. Now add the capers. Finally, the passata. You can add some finely chopped but deseeded tomatoes, earlier, for texture.

When the pasta is cooked, strain it, reserving a cup of pasta water.

Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and stir, coating the pasta. Add a little of the reserved pasta water and leave on heat to cook for a couple of minutes, while it reduces.

Transfer the mixture to a warm serving dish, pour some olive oil on it and serve with chunks of rough Italian country bread.

Prawns with courgette and cherry tomatoes

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Ingredients

  • two dozen prawns, shelled and deveined
  • one courgette, cut into thin batons
  • eight cherry tomatoes, halved and deseeded
  • 1 chilli (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • sprig of fresh fennel
  • zest of one lemon

Instructions

Boil a pot of salted water , then add pasta.

Heat a skillet or pan and add butter and olive oil.

Turn down the heat to medium and toss the batons of courgette in the pan until they soften and begin to brown. Add the seeded cherry tomato halves and stir them in with the courgette. Now add the prawns and toss while they heat and cook. While those ingredients are cooking, add the chilli and garlic. Then add the lemon zest and finally, the chopped fennel.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the other ingredients and stir to combine. Now add the reserved pasta water (half a cup) and allow to combine again.

Finally, add the ingredients to a serving dish. Sprinkle with some fresh olive oil and serve.

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