I love having ‘proper’ foodies as guests – people who say “no I’ve never had black pudding before, but bring it on”. Today, it’s all about the starters for me – am doing two of my favourite to make and serve: Grilled Asparagus, and Scallops & Boudin Noir.
They both sound fairly dull on a menu, but it’s the flourishes that make all the difference.
The grilled asparagus is two different fresh varieties (white and green, both local from the market this morning, where I did my usual ‘six foot four in Normandy’ impression of Gandalf amongst the Hobbits), simply grilled with a glug of melted butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Served on a potato, parmesan and asparagus fritter, with a big slosh of Hollandaise sauce and a poached quail’s egg.
The scallops are pan-fried on top of a gently sautéed sliver of black pudding, resting on top of a sweet, chilled pea, mint & basil purée on a lightly toasted piece of baguette.
To kick off then, that fritter. Finely chop one stem of green asparagus, and boil it for 5 minutes. The rest then is nice and simple – grate an egg-sized potato, add half a blended egg, a handful of grated or shaved parmesan, some seasoning and the drained asparagus. Stir it together, get a frying pan on a medium to high heat, and slop a spoonful of the mixture into some hot oil. Press it down, as you want it quite nicely and neatly thin, and keep on the heat for 3-4 minutes before flipping. They should be just browned off for the grated potato to have cooked through.
On to the asparagus. The white asparagus I blanche in boiling water first, and leave them to soak for 5 minutes, just to help soften these slightly more woody characters. Melt 25g or so of butter (30 seconds in a microwave will do it) and drizzle or brush it all over the asparagus. Then all onto a grill tray, plenty of big fat sea salt and grinds and grinds of black and pink pepper, under a high heat for 7 minutes, turning every minute or two. If you don’t know how to make Hollandaise, I’m not going to teach you, but ensure you make it nicely lemon-y. Poach that quail’s egg in water stuffed full of lemon vinegar too. It can be quite a precise thing – 75 seconds in simmering water is perfect – that yolk should be just runny. A grate of lemon zest over the top should finish it all off nicely.
The scallops are best off started with that pea purée. A bowl full of peas (frozen is fine), steamed for 7-8 minutes (they won’t lose too much colour that way), add some gently sautéed finely-chopped shallots and garlic, a handful of mint and one of basil, and a pinch of sugar. Blitz it together with a slosh of cream and a drizzle of olive oil, a little parmesan can lift it too, and then bung it in the fridge for half an hour.
Slice your boudin noir (black pudding to you) and fry on a low heat in some butter on each side for a couple of minutes. Any longer, and it might start crumbling away to nothing. Toast your bread, and put a generous schmear of the pea purée on top. Fresh pan for the scallops – high heat, sautéed in butter for about one minute to 90 seconds either side. Place the black pudding on top of the pea purée and the scallops on top of the black pudding. Drizzle a little of the butter from the scallop pan over the top, and serve.
Both of these are simply edible in the extreme, and great palate-liveners, in this case before steak-frites with Béarnaise sauce. I’ve recommended a fresh, light, white Sauvignon Blanc, like a local Touraine or Sancerre, with the asparagus, and a fairly light French Pinot Noir (like a Sancerre Rouge) complements the meaty scallops and smoky black pudding perfectly.