Days are getting shorter, temperatures are steadily dropping and London’s streets are strewn with leaves: autumn is well and truly here.
But there’s no need to say goodbye to your summer travels just yet — at least not according to chef, presenter and author, John Gregory-Smith. ‘I want to find things that are fresh, and to do that you have to travel,’ he says. ‘All my research is done when I’m abroad. I find the food and culture of the Middle East fascinating.’
His latest book, Saffron in the Souks, takes inspiration from Lebanon. ‘The coastline is stunning, so they have a really big seafood culture there,’ he says. ‘This dish was cooked by a friend of mine. Cooking the scallops in the shells is wonderful. They hold all the buttery juices, so you can eat the scallops and then dunk some bread in afterwards to mop up the sauce.’
And this fuss-free recipe can be easily whipped up at home. ‘Classic Middle Eastern food is usually easier to cook than people think,’ says Gregory-Smith. ‘You can go to the fish counter at Tesco and buy scallops in their shells. It’s about using the shells as a little vehicle to create something delicious.’
It’s also simple enough to bring your own adventures to the table, he explains: when abroad, use Instagram to find local restaurants and head to cookery schools in the area. ‘Try to find one in someone’s home, something really low-key. They tend to be more focused on home cooking, and there’s something wonderful about being shown a lovely local dish.’
120g soft butter
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 handfuls of finely chopped mint leaves, plus extra to garnish
3 tsp sumac, plus extra to garnish
½ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
12 large scallops and their shells
Juice of ½ lemon
Mix together the butter, garlic, mint, sumac, Aleppo pepper flakes and a good pinch of salt in a bowl.
Preheat a barbecue to high. Divide the butter between the scallop shells and place on to the barbecue.
Once the butter has melted, add the scallops and cook for 1–2 minutes each side until just cooked through and super-tender. The shells get really hot so use a good pair of tongs to take them off the barbecue.
Squeeze a little lemon over each scallop and add a tiny pinch of sumac and some mint leaves. Serve immediately.
‘Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant Recipes from the Heart of Lebanon,’ by John Gregory-Smith is out now (Kyle Books; £25)