Scallops with Pea Purée and Ham

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I adore scallops, especially when partnered with some salty pork. I often cook them with little nuggets of Mexican chorizo, frying them in the spicy red fat released by the meat. But they’re also great with slivers of air-dried ham—lightly fried until crisp—or you could use thin slices of bacon. I always buy diver-caught scallops. Dredging, the most common method of retrieving them, can have a disastrous effect on the seabed. In any case, diver-caught shellfish are invariably fresher too, and less gritty.

The combination of scallops with a warm pea and mint purée was devised by chef Rowley Leigh and has since become a classic. In the autumn you can achieve an equally delightful effect with a purée of squash—just substitute mushy squash for the pea purée.

Serves4 as a starter

Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturemeaty, salty, savory, sweet


  • 2½ cups fresh or frozen baby peas
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Leaves from 1 large bunch of mint, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil
  • 4 large, paper-thin slices serrano ham or prosciutto (or 8 thin cooked bacon slices)
  • 12 diver scallops, cleaned
  • A little extra virgin olive or canola oil, to serve


  1. First, make the pea purée: Cook the peas in boiling salted water until tender, then drain, reserving the cooking water, and empty the peas into a blender or food processor. Put the oil and garlic in a small pan and allow to sizzle gently for barely a minute until the garlic just begins to color. Quickly pour it into the blender with the peas. Add the butter, mint, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Blend to a purée, adding a little of the cooking liquid if necessary to give a consistency similar to that of coarse hummus. Taste and adjust the seasoning; keep warm.

  2. To cook the scallops, put a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Tear the ham into large shreds and add to the pan, turning the pieces over in the oil as soon as they start to crisp - this should take less than a minute. Transfer to a warm plate. Season the scallops, add them to the pan, and cook for about a minute, until golden brown underneath. Turn them over and cook for a minute on the other side.

  3. Immediately transfer the scallops to 4 warm plates, adding a few scraps of ham to each one. Put a good dollop of pea purée next to the scallops, drizzle with a little extra-virgin oil plus the juices from the scallop pan, and grind over some pepper. Serve right away.


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