As I’ve said before, I get inspiration for the food I cook from many different places. This Scallop, Squash and Pancetta Risotto came into being after I saw something similar on Instagram. That version comprised a bowl of bacon and pumpkin risotto topped with large, pan-fried scallops, as I recall. It was also quite a bit more “cheffy” than what you see presented here. I like to play around with presentation from time to time, but generally hunger trumps plating in my kitchen.
The quick notes I scribble to myself rarely go into much detail. Quite a lot of them read like those slightly pretentious restaurant menus that give you few clues. You know what I mean: “Beef, Potato, Horseradish” – cooked how? Served how? Fortunately “scallop, bacon, squash, risotto” didn’t require a master codebreaker to decipher.
Scallops were one of the first seafood items I fell in love with. As a child I wasn’t a fan of fish at all. I think a lot of kids can be the same, unless it comes encased in batter with a side of chunky chips. I could never really understand why anyone would order fish or seafood in a restaurant. (Prawn cocktails excepted of course – who can resist their charms?). Fish rarely looked either filling or indeed enticing. Who really wants to spend half of dinner dissecting what arrives on their plate?
However, despite my reservations, there was always a way that I could be tempted to order from the seafood side of the menu. For many years I had a reputation in my family for ordering by price rather than ingredients. In many cases the fishy options tend to be the most expensive. My childhood logic was that if they were charging more then it had to be worth it. My parents were kind enough to indulge me in this behaviour from time to time and that’s how I discovered I liked scallops. And lobster. And Monkfish…
Of course, the scallops used here aren’t the big king or queen scallops you’d normally get in a restaurant. For this recipe I’ve used their smaller cousins: Patagonian Scallops, which are widely available in the freezer section of many British supermarkets. They still have that lovely sweet flavour and unique texture that you expect from a scallop. Their size means that you get a piece in almost every mouthful, which feels rather decadent.
They’re a lovely flavour match for the sweetness of the butternut squash and saltiness of the bacon too. I added in the spinach to give a bit of earthiness, which I think really works well. It’s not a dominant flavour, but it adds a bit of body that might otherwise feel lacking. Oh, and although not everyone’s a fan of cheese and fish together I think a little bit of Parmesan over the top is perfectly acceptable here. Plus it looks rather lovely too, which makes this a feast for the eyes as much as anything else.
Scallop, Squash & Pancetta Risotto
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 100 g Pancetta Cubes
- 100 g Butternut Squash peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- 50 g Spinach
- 1 small Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and crushed
- 150 g Arborio Rice
- 100 ml Vermouth or dry white wine
- 500 ml Fish or Vegetable Stock kept warm
- 1 tsp Lemon Zest
- 150 g Patagonian Scallops
- 2 tbsp Freshly Grated Parmesan
- Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta cubes and fry for 5 minutes or so, until they’re cooked through and starting to brown on the edges.
- Add the butternut squash and dried thyme to the pan, and stir until coated in the pancetta mixture. Continue to fry over a medium heat for a further 10 minutes, until the squash is tender.
- Add the spinach to the pan and stir to mix. As soon as the spinach is wilted turn down the heat and keep the mixture warm.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a second deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute until fragrant.
- Turn the heat up to high. Pour in the rice and stir into the oily onion mixture until well coated, then cook for a couple of minutes until the ends of each grain have turned slightly translucent.
- Pour in the vermouth – it will bubble vigorously but you want to keep stirring the rice constantly until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Add a generous ladle of the stock into the pan and stir continuously. Turn the heat down to medium-high. When almost all of the stock has been absorbed add another ladle to the pan, continuing to stir the rice. Repeat this process of adding more warm stock to the pan once the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice. It will take about 18-20 minutes for the rice to cook through, but you may not need to use up all of the stock (see next step).
- After about 15 minutes add the pancetta and squash mixture to the pan and stir to mix it thoroughly with the rice. Continue to add as much stock as is needed until the rice is cooked through.
- When the rice is tender to the bite, lower the heat and add the lemon zest and scallops to the pan. Cover with a well fitting lid and cook over a medium-low heat for a further 4-5 minutes until the scallops are cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and stir through half of the parmesan. Divide between two serving bowls, then sprinkle the rest of the parmesan over the top before serving.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||8||g|
|of which Sugars||4||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|