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WanderSups: What’s better than prawn toast? Spiced scallop toast. . .

“I might even like it more than the prawn version. Just don’t tell 16-year-old me that.” Velvet’s Hannah Gregory gives sesame prawn toast an upgrade - by switching in spiced scallops

Hannah Gregory of WanderSups gives prawn toast an upgrade - with scallops
Hannah Gregory of WanderSups gives prawn toast an upgrade - with scallops

We are all familiar with sesame prawn toast, that firm favourite of selections from the appetiser section of your local Chinese establishment. Cheap white bread, smothered in a prawny paste, topped with nutty sesame seeds and deep fried till golden brown, cut into perfect triangles. It is only the real deal if it leaves a film of greasy residue on your fingers which requires a scrunch of a napkin after every bite.

I have two types of ordering when it comes to Chinese takeaways - I either want flavourful concoctions loaded with aromatics and spice and full of ingredients not found commonly in my kitchen or I want a plate of fried beige food (usually to cure a hangover); prawn toast, salt-and-pepper squid and sweet-and-sour pork balls all go hand in hand when these latter dire times come around.

The love affair with sesame prawn toast started young. As a teenager living in rural Bedfordshire, there wasn’t a huge amount of eateries to choose from, but there was the local Chinese - The Dew Drop Inn. On a Saturday night we would pile into the car to drive the short distance to the neighbouring village, greeted like we were long-lost family and ushered upstairs to a dining room full of fish tanks, Asian printed screens and white paper tablecloths - they don’t make them like that any more.

Plate after plate came to the table, placed on the iconic Lazy Susan that my Dad painstakingly slowly rotated, syphoning off chunks of his lemon chicken and black bean beef until eventually, my golden triangles were in front of me. The first bite was always heaven: the crunch of the fried toast giving way to the soft prawns, steam billowing out from within as I furiously flapped my hand in front of my mouth, trying to cool what was inside, and eventually extinguishing the searing heat with a swig of ice-cold Diet Coke.

Later into my teens, Saturday family meals got replaced with underage drinking in nearby Milton Keynes - the glamour. My friend and I would brandish our fake IDs with pride, starting our evenings in Vodka Revs and finishing it dancing in the ice room at Oceana - honestly, the youth of today will never experience anything quite like the suburbs in the early 2000s.

Eventually we would get a taxi home where we would always ask to be dropped off at the late-night Chinese. This one was very different to the aforementioned Dew Drop Inn, the classiest of Chinese establishments. No, our Saturday night haunt offered no eat-in dining, it was a counter guarded by a small, angry man who was most perturbed if you disturbed him from whatever he was watching on the small TV that sat alongside him. Barking at us to tell him what we wanted, he would then disappear for a moment to the back kitchen before returning to his seat and beloved TV show. We would sit and wait under the strip lights, drunkenly mesmerised by the lucky cat staring back at us until another bark telling us our food was ready.

Two white greasy paper bags waited for us, my friend’s full of chips and curry sauce, mine, my beloved prawn toast. From here we would begin our 30-minute amble back to our houses, balls of our feet burning from dancing in ridiculously stupid heels, path lit by nothing more than the moon, one hand cradling the hot greasy bag, grateful for the warmth, whilst the other hand shoved fried morsel after fried morsel into our mouths as we cackled and dissected the night, the fried carbs doing their work of absorbing White Russians and Smirnoff Ices.

I came up with this recipe as I wanted a dish that would blend the nostalgia of yesteryear with a slight refinement I seem to have developed as a chef. I wanted to offer my private dining clients something that would make them smile but they couldn’t pick up at the local Chinese and so, here we have it. Sesame scallop toast - I might even like it more than the prawn version, just don’t tell 16-year-old me that.

Hannah Gregory of WanderSups gives prawn toast an upgrade - with scallops
Hannah Gregory of WanderSups gives prawn toast an upgrade - with scallops

Sesame Scallop Toast
Makes: Four slices

What you need:

● 600g frozen scallops (defrosted)

● 2 tablespoons lard

● 2 spring onions

● 1 teaspoon fresh ginger

● 1 teaspoon light soft brown sugar

● 1 teaspoon salt

● 2 teaspoons cornflour

● 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

● 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds

● 3 tablespoons black sesame seeds

● Veg oil for frying

● Kewpie (optional for garnish)

● Tograshi (optional for garnish)

● Crispy seaweed thins (optional for garnish)

How you do it :

1. Take 100g of your scallops and lay out on a kitchen towel to dry off as much as possible. Use another piece of kitchen towel to lay over the top of them - we want to get these suckers as dry as possible.

2. Add 250g of the scallops to a food processor along with the lard, white parts of the spring onions (reserve the green tops for garnish), ginger, sugar, salt, cornflour and sesame oil and blitz to a paste.

3. Chop the remaining 250g of scallops and stir through the paste - this creates a bit of texture and we like texture.

4. When the whole scallops are as dry as they are going to get, using a very sharp knife, slice them very thinly so you are left with lots of scallop discs.

5. Carefully place the scallop discs on the bread, slightly overlapping each one so the bread is covered - it will look a bit like scallopy scales. Press down on them to ensure they have stuck to the bread.

6. Take half the paste and spread gently over the scallop scales making sure you don’t dislodge them. Make sure you take the paste all the way to the edges and everything is covered.

7. Repeat on the remaining pieces of bread.

8. On a plate or in a large shallow dish, mix the sesame seeds.

9. Carefully turn the bread over and press the scallop paste side into the sesame seeds making sure all the paste is covered.

10. Add the veg oil to a frying pan, it should be about 1cm deep. Heat until a piece of bread sizzles when tested.

11. When the oil is at temperature, carefully lower the bread sesame side down and fry for three minutes before carefully flipping and frying for three minutes on the other side until it is

golden brown all over.

12. Drain on kitchen paper and repeat till all four slices are done making sure the oil doesn’t get too hot.

13. For the garnish, finely slice the reserved green tops of the salad onions and crumble up the seaweed thins.

14. When ready to serve, cut the toast into triangles with a sharp knife. Garnish with a drizzle of the kewpie and a sprinkle of spring onion, seaweed and tograshi. Serve with chilli crisp if you know what’s good for you.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. Follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com.

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