I love the concept of the canape. All the flavours of an entire plateful, heaped extravagantly into one perfect mouthful. But I’ve just discovered something I love as much as the canape, and that’s the derivation of the word. Canape was coined in 18th century France and means ‘sofa’ – a welcoming, capacious, inviting seat on which to place a host of convivial partners. The perfect description of the best kind of canape, in other words. I haven’t enjoyed a word so much since I discovered sesquipedalian – a very long word which means a very long word.
Idle thoughts about sofas took me to Elizabeth Gaskell, the Victorian novelist and biographer of Charlotte Bronte. In 1859 Mrs Gaskell combined a group of stories under the collective title Round the Sofa. Characters gather around the sofa of Mrs. Dawson to hear her account of Lady Ludlow. The subsequent story of the Countess, her feckless son Lord Septimus and her loyal companion Miss Galindo became one of the most compelling strands of the brilliant BBC television adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s work, Cranford.
This is the canape I’ve devised in honour of Miss Galindo, the spinster daughter of a Baronet. In Mrs Gaskell’s story she struggles uncomplainingly to support herself and I figured it was time she was treated to a little luxury. So in tribute to the valiant Miss Galindo, here’s an edible sofa to enjoy while sitting on a sofa, reading Round the Sofa.
CANAPES OF SCALLOPS ON A JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE CRISP WITH ARTICHOKE PUREE AND PANCETTA
- 500 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed but unpeeled
- 200 g fresh scallops
- A little lemon juice
- 1 large knob butter
- 100 ml single cream
- 200 ml groundnut oil
- A few fresh thyme leaves
- Around 6 slices pancetta
Reserve one large, evenly shaped artichoke – put the others to one side to use for the puree. Slice the reserved artichoke very finely with a mandolin. As you slice, place the pieces in a bowl of water which has been acidulated with lemon juice. The lemon will stop the artichoke from discolouring.
Dry the artichoke slices. Heat the groundnut oil in a pan until very hot – it should be about 1.5 cm deep. Test the temperature by putting a cube of bread into the oil and checking that it fries crisply. Lower the artichoke slices carefully into the oil for around two minutes until crisp and brown. Remove from the oil and place them on kitchen paper while you prepare the other ingredients. (The crisps are delicious on their own, with a little sea salt, but you want to end up with enough crisps to partner the scallops, so count carefully.)
Bring the remaining artichokes to a simmer in a pan of salted water and cook until soft.
Puree the cooked artichokes, along with the butter and cream. Season to taste and keep warm.
Fry the pancetta until crisp and remove from pan. Using the same pan, add a little olive oil and fry the scallops for a couple of minutes each side, until golden. Don’t overcook them or they will become tough.
Assemble your sofas by heaping a teaspoon of puree on a crisp, placing a generous shard of pancetta on top and crowning with a thyme-topped scallop. Squeeze a few drops of lemon over the scallops if so inclined. Eat immediately – no-one likes a soggy sofa.