Well seasoned

Categories: News and previews

Clare Finney joins Hayden Groves in the Cookhouse for a preview of his upcoming residency

Words: Clare Finney

“Now, has anyone ever done this at home?” says Hayden Grove, proffering in one hand a scallop still in its shell and in the other a small, sharp knife. Silence reigns among the bloggers, assembled in Borough Market’s gleaming test kitchen to experience a sneak preview of Hayden Grove’s demo kitchen residency.

“What, you mean you don’t know how to shuck a scallop?” Hayden grins. We don’t of course—and we’re here to find out. It is one of the many techniques Hayden will demonstrate over the course of his three-week residency at the Market.

“I don’t have a particular cuisine or come from particular roots,” he told me prior to the preview, “so when I thought about what I’d do for the residency, I decided to look at the ingredients that are best in October, use them as inspiration, and split the three sessions up into starters, main courses and desserts.”

Deep, mottled greens
The scallops he’s currently shucking will star in the first session, starters with scallops and mussels, appearing in one dish roasted alongside sweet, nutty roast parsnips and apple, and in another partnered with bright avocado and grapefruit as a ceviche. It’s the latter we’re watching now, the luminous orbs of the grapefruit and the deep, mottled greens of the as yet unskinned avocadoes injecting a welcome flush of colour into the damp grey of an early autumn day. 

“These are hand dived scallops,” says Hayden, tucking his oyster knife into the shell, “and really there should be a movement for using them more. Not only are they more ecologically sound but, because they have not been churned up through trawling and dredging, the meat is better and purer too.”

As Hayden carefully leverages the fresh rococo shells open, another colour bursts into the scene: the aptly named scallop coral. Nestled alongside the glinting scallop and the gelatinous and frankly unappetising frill or skirt, it looks at first “like something out of Predator,” Hayden grins mischievously.


A balance of textures
How to cook the roe is another tip you’ll pick up during the course of Hayden’s first demo, which runs from selecting shellfish at the Market, right through to serving them, chef style, on a nice plate. “When you do your presentation, think about your food and how each bite should have all the flavours and a balance of textures.”

So if we’ve the citrus, the meaty scallop and the avocado, which we’ll puree, “we need some crunch in there” which he adds via some wild rice, deep-fried until it pops up into several dozen crispy puffs. Meanwhile, the avocados churn slowly in the food processor, reducing smoothly down into a vibrant and creamily sweet puree.

I’m still battling my shucked scallop, whose frilly skirt does not come away as easily as Hayden’s calm and clear instructions made it seem. “You need to really get in there with your fingers,” he says over the pop-pop-pop of wild rice exploding in the oil. I follow his instructions and a moment later, frill removed, the coral set carefully aside, it’s time for a bath in “ice cold water—not tap, that is too warm,” says Hayden. “Then remove the excess moisture by placing them, on a towel, on a board, at the bottom of the fridge.”

Orchard fruits
Future sessions—main courses with mallard and wild mushrooms; puddings with orchard fruits—promise instructions on such challenging techniques as selecting and preparing the bird, pan roasting the breast versus roasting on the crown, braising, poaching and mastering crème anglaise and sorbet.

You can read the agenda in full on the listing page—but if his preview is anything to go by, Hayden will impart far more know-how than that which is advertised here. Tips this evening flow thick and fast: how to ripen an avocado, how to remove the stone, how to peel grapefruit and how to do all the above without creating any mess. The secret? “Clingfilm, on the board or surface. Makes it easy to take all the mess away.”

Now for what I suspect will be the tricky part—transforming the chilly, slippery scallop into the tight, taut flesh of a ceviche. In fact, it proves remarkably easy: a pinch of salt, followed by the grapefruit juice you’ve squeezed having set aside some fleshy segments for the plates, and a covering of cling film before leaving it for a minimum of one and a half minutes.

Hayden helps shuck scallops

Jewels of grapefruit
“How long you leave it for will depend on the size of the pieces you have cut the scallop into,” Hayden points out simply, as he starts plating up the firmed and pearly chunks with jewels of grapefruit pieces and bright puree.

Hayden’s agenda looks challenging. Products like mussels, wild mallard and quince will strike many as unfamiliar—daunting, even. Yet this is counterbalanced by Hayden’s warm, approachable style of teaching; his determination to incorporate so many hints and tips that “even if you just come for 15 minutes you’ll come away with something”; and an approach to ingredients that can loosely be defined as “the only limit is your imagination”—whether it’s a crustacean or a quince.