Being overwhelmed is my default response to change.

I’m a creature of habit. It takes a while for me to adapt. So after a few years of disruptions, drilling and roadblocks, I’m momentarily lost when my twice-weekly second home reveals its facelift.

I have clear memories of the markets –pre-Network-Rail disruptions. My first visit to Stoney Street was on a trip from Sydney in 2009. We’d just spent five days in Barcelona and were indulging in a quick stop in London before battling  26 hours in economy back to the other side of the world.  I was half way through a brownie as dense as mud when my husband first mooted the prospect of uprooting our lives and moving to London. It could have been the taste of the brownie. It could have been the smell of chorizo rolls down the way or the joyful buzz from the markets. All I know is it didn’t take long to convince me.

In the years that followed , I didn’t realise how accustomed I’d become to the sound track of drilling and the orange bunting of construction at Borough. Until it was gone.

My first morning down at  newly opened Three Crown Square at Borough Market carts all the giddy appeal of exploring hedge rowed mazes, with its multiple entrances and avenues. It’s welcoming. It’s sensible. And It’s protected (those of us who have battled the Jubilee Market during sleet and snow can warm their hearts and hands  with that thought).

The arched wrought in the roof carries my brain to the Boquerias  of Spain and at the same time, robs me of a sensible plan for supper.

Down the thoroughfares there are drums of oil to taste at the Olive Oil Company.  Oil is as good a base for a meal as any. Like a game of word association a meal unfurls. Soon in the bag there are green olives from fat wooden baskets at Borough Olives .

 Olives beckon for bread and bread for cured meats. Soon a proud fat tongue of ciabatta and a skinny cylinder of spiced saucisse sesse from Ham and Cheese Company are coming home with us.

All that’s needed now is protein.  It could be game- rabbit stew, or a few roasted small birds to pluck at with our fingers. Yet what calls out from around the corner are plump diver scallops.

They’re to be poached in the olive oil, along with little gems of garlic cloves and the zest from the blood oranges that Paul Wheeler is stocking out the front.

We’ll soften it with a salad of bitter leaves, the olives, fennel and blood orange flesh and smush the softened cloves and pieces of sausage onto bread.

It’s not a meal for the table, it’s a meal for excited hands and busy brains. Tonight we won’t join the crowds spilling onto the street at Brindisa. It’s going to be tapas at home.

When overwhelmed by choice and change, it’s sometimes best not to fight it. Slowly and steadily, a collection of small purchases adds up to a sum of more than their parts. And while it may not be immediately obvious, I can rest easy;  a plan (and a darn good dinner) is usually  just around the corner.

Olive Oil Poached Scallops with Blood Orange and Garlic.

Serves 2 as part of a tapas style platter


350 ml of olive oil
2 heads of garlic, skins removed from cloves
2 bay leaves
Zest of half a blood orange, removed in strips using a vegetable peeler
250 grams of scallops (can substitute shelled prawns)
Salt and pepper to taste

Flesh of 1 blood orange, segmented
1 endive, roughly torn
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved on a mandolin, green tops reserved
100 grams of green olives
Salt and pepper to taste

Bread, toasted.
Saucisson or other cured meat

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 100C/210 F.

2) Take a baking dish, no larger than a sheet of A4 paper and pour the olive oil into it. Add the garlic cloves, bay leaves and the blood orange zest. Place in the oven to bake for two hours.

3) When the garlic cloves are soft and jammy and the temperature of the  oil reads between 82 C/180 F 80C and 95 C/200F on a digital thermometer add the scallops and return to the oven to bake for 10 minutes.

4) To make the salad combine the remaining blood orange segments with the torn endive, shaved fennel and olives. Season with salt and pepper and add the reserved fennel tops.

5) Season the scallops with salt and pepper and serve the scallops in some of the poaching olive oil. Use some of the remaining oil to dress the salad.  Encourage guests to spread the soft garlic cloves on the toasted bread. Serve the salad, scallops, bread and garlic with some cured meats as part of a tapas platter.

Recipe developed for and originally published on