Gill Meller cooking outdoors with Pentire
An afternoon spent with chef, sailor, and grower Gill Meller. Food made with natural ingredients, inspired by local landscapes, with a deep love for time spent outdoors. Over to Gill to share more.
One of the things I enjoy most in this life is to walk down to the beach near our house and cook something. I love it and try to do it whenever I can. I’m lucky enough to live along an incredibly beautiful stretch of coastline, on the Devon Dorset border, but because it’s difficult to get to, it tends to be very quiet, occasionally, I’m the only one there.
When I’m at the beach, I like to cook in the simplest way I can: over a campfire on the ground. I have an old cast iron pan that I picked up from a junk shop, which sometimes comes along, and I carry a sharp pocketknife for cutting things up. However, I tend to find that the less I bring, the more fun I have. There’s plenty of dry driftwood on the tide line to get a hot fire going.
You might think this kind of cooking is restrictive, but I find it’s the complete opposite. It’s somehow freeing, it awakens our senses, ignites ingenuity, and encourages us to think more creatively and mindfully about a process that’s in danger of becoming de-sensitised. There’s also something deeply primal about its simplicity; it’s like I’m stripping away all the complicated noise that seems to surround cooking, so I can listen to something in its purest form.
When you’re cooking with really great ingredients, less is quite often more. I can never see the point in overcomplicating good food or the way in which it’s cooked, especially if I’m cooking over fire outside. This lovely recipe comes together quickly and is a nice one cook down at the beach. If you can’t track down any wild greens you can add fresh herbs, like parsley, or stir in young spinach or chard leaves at the end instead.
Scallops with bacon and coastal greens
6 large hand dived scallops
150g of bacon lardons or a piece of bacon cut into nice chunky bits
1 tbsp of olive oil
A handful of coastal greens (such as sea beet, samphire or young sea kale leaves)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large heavy based frying pan over a high heat. Add the olive oil and when it’s nice and hot add the bacon. Sizzle the bacon for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring it regularly, so it cooked nice and evenly. When the bacon’s starting to crisp around its edges, season the scallops and add them to the pan. Fry them for about a minute on each side. You want them to take on a bit of colour before you turn them over. When the scallops are almost ready scatter in the greens and toss everything round the pan. The greens will wilt quite quickly.
Take the pan off the heat and serve.
Gill chose to serve Pentire Margarita with this recipe. To serve, pour the pre-mixed Margarita over ice and garnish with chilli.
Words by Gill Meller