Scallops and squid with butternut squash and squid ink sauce

26 July 2018

Scallops squid and butternut squash

Well into the second month of the British summer heatwave, I went early on Saturday morning to the Wyken Farmers Market, willing to go with the flow in terms of what to get for dinner. It’s always a busy place, with stalls offering great fruit and veg and fine locally reared meat of all kinds - as well as bread makers, spice sellers, chocolate producers (my old friends at Tosier Chocolate, I think they’re following me around) - you name it.

But it’s always a 50/50 proposition that I’m going to be attracted to one stall in particular - the fresh fish stall. Locally caught fish, all gleaming and gorgeous - and the exact opposite to the tired dull-eyed fare you normally see in the local supermarkets. I live in the part of East Anglia which is significantly distant to the coast, so options are sadly limited without some significant travel.

In this case, I saw some beautiful big scallops, and some squid. Now I’d never cooked with squid but had been meaning to for ages - in fact, I’d stocked up on some squid ink because there was something I wanted to do when I finally saw the opportunity. So this had to be the time. I got half a dozen scallops and two squid, along with some cod cheeks (which I had for lunch, coated in beer batter and deep fried to have in a wholemeal roll with mayonnaise, cornichons and dill).

My inspiration for this dish came from Le Champignon Sauvage - more specifically the book “Essence” by proprietor chef David Everitt-Mattias. That recipe used baby squid and a specific variety of pumpkin. But I was happy to adapt to use butternut squash, endlessly adaptable as it is, and standard squid. I’m sure the original is sublime, if you ever get a chance to visit Le Champignon Sauvage - but this version was splendid in any case, and might well make it onto my dinner-party menu at some point.

The key things that takes the time is the butternut squash purée, since you roast the squash first, and the sauce since there’s a lot of reduction involved. Obviously, the final cooking of the scallops and the squid is done at the very last minute because both cook very quickly - and the real trick for this dish is simply to avoid overcooking them.

Treat the quantities especially for the dairy component of the squash purée and the squid ink in the sauce as approximate. You want the butternut squash purée to be gorgeous and silky smooth and feel free to add a little extra milk and cream if needed to achieve that. Likewise, the sauce is meant to be black - not grey. So use just enough squid ink to get it to that colour.

Scallops and squid with butternut squash and squid ink sauce

Serves: 2

6 hand-dived scallops, large
2 squid
50ml olive oil
50g unsalted butter
Some dill to garnish

For the butternut squash purée

Half a large butternut squash
100ml milk
100ml double cream
50g unsalted butter, diced
Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce

125ml white wine
150ml white chicken stock
100ml double cream
24ml squid ink
A squeeze of Lemon juice
Sea salt



Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC fan oven. 

Chop the butternut squash into chunks, and put into a roasting tray. Drizzle the olive oil onto the squash and make sure they get fully coated with the oil. Give a light seasoning with salt and pepper, and put into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is fully soft and cooked.

Take out the tray and leave to cool a little for 5-10 minutes, then scrape the flesh from the skins and place it in a blender. Mix together the milk and the double cream and bring nearly up to the boil, then add them to the butternut squash in the blender. Blitz until fully mixed together, and then add the butter and blitz again. Give it a little more liquid if it needs it and check and adjust the seasoning - the texture should be very smooth. If you’re looking for the full edge of refinement, you can then push the purée through a sieve. Put to one side in a covered pan.

In a small saucepan, pour in the white wine and boil until almost completely evaporated. Then add the chicken stock and boil similarly until reduced by half. Then add the double cream and simmer until nicely thickened. Add salt to taste, and then add the squid ink - add two thirds to start with and then just add enough a bit at a time so it reaches the desired black colour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and cover and put to one side.

Clean the scallops, remove the roe and, if you have particularly large ones, slice them horizontally in half. To prepare the squid, pull the head gently from the body. Reach into the sack and find the hard spiky element and remove that as well. Remove the skin from the body and slice up one side so you can open it out. Remove any bits attached so you have white smooth sheets. Score the surface of these very carefully with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut to deep - into diamond shapes. With the head, cut the tentacles loose, and check whether the hard beak is in the middle - if it is, then remove it.

When ready to go, gently reheat the purée and the sauce.

First cook the scallops. In a very hot pan with vegetable oil, lay them on in a circle in turn - cook them for 2 minutes one side and then turn them in the same order you placed them so they get the same cooking time. Give them a minute and a half on the other side, and then remove them, placing them on a plate and cover them with tin foil.

Then cook the squid. Literally, 30 seconds to a minute is going to be sufficient here. The scored body will roll up. If you over cook, it will be chewy and horrible, so as soon as it looks cooked, take it out of the pan. 

Serve with a large smear of the purée, topped with the sauce, and then with the scallops and squid placed around. Scatter a few pieces of dill and serve.