In My Kitchen, September 2018

A few years ago, an old friend mentioned that he found my blog very positive. Since that day, I decided to keep it that way. There’s enough negativity in the world without me adding my two bob’s worth concerning the sadness of our times, family illness and the winter of my discontent: in times like these, graceful silence makes more sense. And so I raise my glass to Spring, and though the vestiges of Winter will stay with us for some time, Spring brings hope. The bounce of early morning kangaroos in the front paddock, the alarming yellow of late winter daffodils pushing through the grass and the efflorescence of pear blossom, a snow-white foreground to a cold misty morning, bring glad tidings and a sense of anticipation and transformation.

View from kitchen window, pear blossom , Spring 2018

But now, let’s get back in the kitchen, the place where magic happens every day. This season’s local fresh scallops ( from Tasmania or Lakes Entrance) have made an appearance in the fish markets. The Bass Strait scallop season opens in mid July, and they are at their freshest in August and September, though the season continues through to December. The industry is highly regulated and subject to quotas. Fresh local scallops are my favourite seafood and bring comfort and joy to my kitchen. Not only are they subtle and delicious, but are easy to prepare, quick to cook and a few go a long way.

Collected shells, containers for Coquilles St Jacques, sauces and dips.

Some years ago, I collected a huge pile of scallop shells when visiting Lakes Entrance on the east coast of Victoria. We sat by a fishing trawler as an older Greek man shucked thousands of scallops into a large box, destined that day for the Melbourne and Sydney fish markets while the beautiful flawless shells were tossed into plastic bags. I took away a large bag of shells and every season, I freshen them up in readiness for a favourite dish, Coquilles St Jacques, baked scallops on the half shell. The scallop shell is the emblem of St Jacques, St James, Sant’Iago or San Giacomo, (depending on your language) and as such, is the symbol of the camino, and in particular, the town of Santiago di Compostela in Galicia, the final stop of that famous pilgrims’ route. Those who have visited Santiago di Compostela or passed through the various French or Spanish towns along the way, will be familiar with the scallop shell embedded in walkways and roads. Modern pilgrims carry the shell around their necks, on the end of their walking sticks or backpacks as a sign to other pilgrims. But the question remains- why the scallop shell? One answer may lie in the Italian word for scallop- Capesante. It is said that the shell was used by the saint to contain water to be used for blessing or benediction on the heads of his followers. Then again, the scallop shell washes up along the shores of Galicia, burial-place of St James, another simple connection.

Santiago in Galicia in his scallop shell hat. Photo from my journey there in 2008.

Another legend provides further clues,

” Following his execution, James’ headless body was being brought to Galicia in northwest Spain to be laid to rest. As the boat containing his body approached the coast, a knight on horseback was walking the cliffs above the Atlantic. Upon seeing the boat, the horse bolted and plummeted into the sea with the knight. St James is said to have miraculously intervened and saved the knight, still on horseback, who emerged covered in scallop shells.”¹

But then, digging a little deeper, we find that a similar pilgrimage route, ending in Finisterre in Galicia, was used in Roman times by pagans:

“In Roman Hispania, there was a route known as the Janus Path used by pagans as a born-again ritual and ending in Finisterre. Its starting point? The Temple of Venus, Roman goddess of love. Venus is said to have risen from the sea on a scallop shell, as depicted in Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus, and is associated with fertility rituals practiced along the route.

Ideas and themes associated with the cult of Janus are echoed by the concept of transformation on the Camino de Santiago. The Roman god Janus, for whom the month January is named, is the god of beginnings and endings, transition and transformation – all ideas shared by pilgrimages and discovered on the Camino today, a constant source of renewal and rediscovery.” ¹

Nascita di Venere. Sandro Botticelli. Uffizi, Firenze

Sant’Iago and these fabulous legends are wonderfully distracting thoughts as I prepare this season’s scallops in my kitchen. To prepare shucked scallops for a recipe, simply tear off the small ligament or tract line on the side. Please keep the roe- an equally delicious part of the scallop and proof that the product is fresh and not from some frozen packet from who knows where. Check that the scallops aren’t overly plump- a sign that they have been soaking in water which makes them less tasty but more costly.

300 gr of scallops, a greedy night for two.
Spaghettini con capesante, porri e zafferano. A hot serving bowl full of spaghettini, scallops, leek, saffron, EV oil and herbs. Recipe soon.

Good things like scallops demand a few lovely condiments. This little Iranian saffron box is one of the jewels residing in my kitchen spice drawer, the ‘dark arts’ drawer as Mr T likes to call it.

Box of Iranian saffron, Preston market.

On my kitchen bench, right next to the stove, stands a bunch of fresh herbs, a tussy mussy of inspiration, replenished often but saving a cold evening walk to the herb garden. This bunch includes winter favourites- parsley, wild fennel, rosemary, thyme, dill and bay.

Herb tussy mussy. Life without herbs is unimaginable.

I bought these cute graters in Bali last month for the princely sum of AU$1. Hand made of stainless steel, they are as effective as my costly Microplane. There’s one for my old friend/ex student Rachael P, and, as I’m returning to Bali next week, I may buy a few more for gifts.

Handmade Balinese microplanes.

Next to the kitchen radio sits a container of Lotus tea. The flask is refilled with hot water from the whistling kettle on top of my wood stove. Another simple pleasure concomitant with Winter.

Sipping Lotus tea in my kitchen. Jon or Raff on the radio or maybe a morning raga.

Thanks once again to Sherry, of Sherry’s Pickings, who hosts the monthly event of In My Kitchen. It’s another positive place where the world gathers to showcase simple delights.

Spaghettini, capesante, porri e zafferano. Paradiso in inverno.

Older scallop posts with recipes:

https://almostitalian.blog/2015/09/23/pasta-con-capesante-scallop-season/

https://almostitalian.blog/2015/10/30/the-seafood-coast-of-eastern-victoria/

¹ https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/

36 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, September 2018”

  1. Fran – may we wordlessly hug and share: my ‘winter’ of ultimate ‘discontent’
    still has to come to and end. I love the utter imperfections of your graters which nevertheless work brilliantly . . . Fran, we do too . . . . have one on me and a bl . . .y good time . . . . love . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely post – a mixture of food and history. I’ve seen pilgrim badges with scallops in museums. I love them, but with a husband who is allergic to shellfish, I rarely get to eat them. The pic with the kangaroos is marvellous, but I realise they can be pests in the garden. Lucky you going back to Bali.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We live in a conservation zone, the green lungs of Melbourne, about 50 kms into the hills so wild animals abound ( unlike elsewhere in Australia). Kangaroos aren’t too worrying in the garden, They eat grass mostly. Wallabies and possums are the biggest garden pests, the latter found in suburban gardens where they wreak havoc. Wild deer are the biggest pest for some in the hills. The introduced species from England- foxes, rabbits and deer- are really destructive.
      Looking forward to returning to Bali- next year it will be for the a full two months- I need to get away from winter.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jane, I hope the rain comes your way soon and with it, more grass.
      Scallops are best when super fresh- so get some next time you are in Sydney or Melbourne. I am sure you’ll like them.

      Like

  3. Your explanation of the Coquille or shell for the pilgrimage route was fascinating — I did not associate it with the Botticelli painting, but that makes so much sense. And all your kitchen things are fascinating, like those graters. The seafood pasta is really delicious looking as well.

    best. . . mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post brought back memories of a month in Paris when I ate coquilles St. Jacques (I stayed on Rue St. Jacques that year) every Saturday. Each time it was a variation on the standard theme, and it was fun comparing the different ways it can be done.

    I liked the “bounce of early morning kangaroos”. The world is so large.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I believe if tbere was more focus on nurturing home, hearth and inner self love there might be less negativity expressed externally. We have also adopted the bottomless flask of hot tea during winter, and summer too but often decanted to chill in the fridge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great idea- chilling a flask of tea for summer. It’s also is a way of retaining and using up boiled water – the electric kettle being the most expensive gadget in the house.
      Yes, I think that’s true Dale, and thanks for expressing that concept so succinctly.

      Like

  6. I always enjoy your monthly “In my kitchen” post, but this one was special. Firstly, that opening image put a big smile on my face. Then I read scallops, yum scallops. What a history lesson as well, I’ll never view a scallop shell the same again. Up pops this picture of an Iranian saffron box that’s amazing. But most of all, the “Spaghettini con capesante, porri e zafferano” tease. I can’t wait to see that post. Oh, and I’m still smiling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I knew you were a seafood lover Ron, just llike me. Lovely scallops, can’t walk past them in a fish shop. I’m glad you’re smiling too- I always find our kangas amusing and hoping to capture the new joeys ( baby kangaroos in pouch) when they appear next month.

      Like

  7. What a view you have from your kitchen! I agree – i can’t imagine life without herbs! Just this morning I picked some oregano and parsley for a bean salad. Of course, summer is ending where I live. Love those scallop shells!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So interesting! My cugina just finished the pilgrimage to Santiago di Campostela the other day! I didn’t realize that Santiago was Sant’Iago. I like these ‘in my kitchen’ posts. I may have to have a go at one some day. Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You may already be back in Bali by now, I’m woefully behind reading blogs. I want to comment since we have just finished a wonderful week in Spain, near the places you have written about. We have been in Donostia-San Sebastián and Bilbao. Tomorrow we head to England and Wales. I enjoyed the kangaroo photo too, and that nice little saffron box from your dark arts drawer 🙂 Enjoy Bali!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About to leave on Monday Ardys. What a wonderful comment here, to find that you are in San Sebastian and now traveling across those Celtic seas to Wales. Have a wonderful trip Ardys. Hope to see some snaps when you get back.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a beautiful little saffron box you have there. Hubby doesn’t eat seafood tho he says he eats scallops. I’ve tried to like the roe but I just don’t find it palateable:). Thanks for all the info about scallop shells 🐚 and thanks so much for being part of IMK. Cheers sherry x

    Like

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