One of our favourite parts of the festive season is sitting down to dinner. For us, there’s nothing better than setting a beautiful table and listening to the appreciative murmurs of our guests over the food we’ve lovingly prepared.
It’s a feeling that Skye McAlpine, culinary artist behind the blog From My Dining Table, knows all too well. Ahead of the Christmas period, we invited Skye to share a few of her favourite festive recipes: a starter, a main and a dessert, all imbued with Skye’s classic Venetian twists. You’ll also find all of these recipes in her new book, A Table In Venice, along with charming anecdotes on her memories and feelings surrounding her food.
For starters, scallops on the shell. Prepared in a flash—they need only a brief spate in a hot oven—and sheer bliss to eat, they are a particular favourite of Skye’s.
“We celebrate Christmas at home in both the Italian and the English way. On Christmas Eve, we feast on pasta dishes laden with truffles, whole baked fish and an array of fresh seafood, followed by panettone, while on the day itself we have roast turkey and plum pudding. For me, it would not be Christmas without a tray of scallops, cooked on the shell, topped with breadcrumbs and swimming in melted butter.
- Skye McAlpine
These scallops are deliciously quick and easy to prepare—buttery and golden and crisp, but juicy and tender at the centre too. I just love how pretty the shells look on the plate.
“Conventionally, you might serve one or two as a starter, but I could happily devour a whole plateful with a crisp chicory salad on the side. Perfect food for celebrating and entertaining at this time of year.
“I have included instructions below for preparing the scallops. You could, of course, ask your fishmonger to do this for you, but make sure you are given the shells.”
What you’ll need
- Six large scallops on the shell
- 25g pistachio nuts
- 20g coarse breadcrumbs
- 50g salted butter, melted
- Sea salt
- Fresh bread
How it’s done
- Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
- Check that each scallop shell is tightly shut and not visibly damaged, otherwise the scallop might not be safe to eat. Open each shell by inserting a knife at the hinge and releasing the muscle from the upper, rounded shell with the tip of the knife, then use the knife to help pull the shells apart.
- Cut away and discard the dark intestinal sac (this is at the bottom of the shell, attached to the scallop) and trim away any other excess matter around the scallop.
- Run the knife under the meat close to the shell to release the scallop and put the scallops in a bowl.
- Discard the flat shells and wash the rounded shells under hot water. Dry the round shells and arrange them on a baking tray. You will use these to serve the scallops in.
- Put the pistachios, breadcrumbs and a generous pinch of salt into a food processor and blitz to a coarse powder.
- Transfer to the bowl with the scallops and roll the scallops in the mixture until they are well-coated.
- Gently nestle each scallop into its shell and sprinkle generously with what’s left of the breadcrumb mixture.
- Spoon melted butter on top and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Cooking the food is only half the fun. Find everything you need to outfit your festive table here.